A special thank you, for help to come up with questions
for Norma Jean; first and most, to Kevin
Brook (of Disco Savvy) who has an excellent! page on Norma Jean. And
thanks also to Spacer
and Glen Russell.
You guys are the best!
Norma Jean Wright was the original lead singer in
Chic, she sang on the demo that got them signed with Atlantic Records. Besides
releasing solo records she has also worked as a session singer for such
artists as Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson. She's also written and produced
songs for herself as well as other artists. In the early 90's she teamed
with long time friend Raymond Jones (Chic keyboards 1978-81) for their 'State
Of Art' project. And are currently featured on Raymond's new album 'Intimate'.
She's also involved with artist management. This prolific artist has graciously
consented to answer the annoyingly many questions (yes, I did apologize
to her!) :-) I and my fellow fans had for her. In this interview which I
did, with her, via e-mail in October/November of 2001 she sets the record
straight on several issues which we fans have been debating about for a
What are you up to nowadays?
I presently co-manage dance diva "Reina", she's
quite popular here in the States, she had a big club record called "Find Another Woman", produced
by Hex Hector, and has had 4 top ten dance records. Also I was former manager
of Jive's teen group "Imajin", they had a top 20 hit called "Shorty" which I co-wrote, the
group is no longer together.
Presently I'm doing some writing and production and I'm
featured on a song entitled "Get
Up", by Maxz Volume. I co-wrote and arranged this song and It was
just released on Strictly Rhythm Records. As a matter of fact It just entered
the Billboard dance chart. It will also be reissued in March (2002) with
several new remixes. Also I co-wrote & sang on another project with
DJ's and Producers Michael Lange and Boris Dlugosch out of Germany. The
song is entitled "Louder Than Words"
and it will be released on Peppermint Jam in October a record label out
I just found out that a song that I sang on with Byron
Stingly and produced by the Basement Boys is being released in January on
Nervous Records. The song is a remake of the old Change tune "Paradise." Last but not least
Raymond Jones & I have a song that we recorded as "State Of Art"
called "You Lift Me Up", that is being reworked as a dance record
and should be out on the market soon.
What did you do before hooking up with Chic?
Norma Jean's Chic produced album in 1978, re-released in 2000. INFO, BUY: (US)
Norma Jean's album with Raymond Jones Community in 1991. BUY: (US)
Norma Jean's Chic album in 1977, incl. hit: 'Everybody
12" Norma Jean 'High Society' 1979.
Prior to hooking up with Chic, I lived in Ohio, and when
I moved to New York, I started working with a local band, and Luci (Martin)
happened to be the other singer in that band, and that's how I met Luci.
The two of us eventually went to Canada together and worked as backup singers
for an artist in Canada.
How did you hook up with Nile & Nard when Chic started
I was introduced to Nile & Nard through a mutual friend.
This friend had worked with them on gigs and was aware that they were working
on some music, and they were looking for a female vocalist to join their
band which consisted of (Nile, Bernard, and Tony Thompson). When I met them
they were working on Dance, Dance
Dance, as a demo. I auditioned for them and they were impressed enough
to ask me to join their group as lead vocalist. I agreed and continued to
work with them on material. Meanwhile I got the gig in Canada and went there
(Luci & I). While in Canada, I was informed by Nile & Nard later
that the songs we had been working on was picked up by Atlantic Records.
Upon hearing this news I returned to New York.
I have conflicting sources on who worked with you on
the early hits, some sources say that you and Alfa Anderson worked together
first and that Luci Martin joined when you left, others have the opposite
view? The record credits say Alfa, but I've known them to be inaccurate
Yes Alfa worked on the Chic album before Luci. Alfa was
hired along with Luther Vandross initially as a background singer not a
principle member. We met her through Luther, and at that time she was a
member in Luther's group. Eventually it was suggested by Nile & Nard
that having another girl in the group would add even more sex appeal, plus
we could do a lot more with 2 voices in our live show. With this in mind,
I introduced them to Luci and she became the 5th member of the group. After
I left a year or so later Alfa was hired as a principle member to replace
I have a video clip on my site of Chic performing 'Everybody Dance' in which you are
the only vocal performer. Was this the original plan, that you alone should
Although, the group started with just one female , the
original plan was to ultimately hire another girl. It's just that the first
song, took off before we could audition and find the right girl, who ended
up being Luci Martin.
Do you have any special memories of those 'starting
out' days that you would like to share with the fans?
Yes, I have loads of special memories, but can't write
them all down. I remember being overjoyed that me, a little girl from Ohio
had a hit record and was the lead vocalist of this hot new group, with a
fresh sound. You see, at the time I was the only member that wasn't a native
Now my greatest memory is: That my boyfriend at the time
(several months before the songs hit) happened to be the national R&B
promotion man at Atlantic Records. I let him hear "Dance,
Dance Dance", & "Everybody
Dance" as demos, and asked him to let the A&R person at Atlantic
hear the songs. This is before we were signed to the label. Well his response
after hearing the 2 songs was he didn't think the songs were strong enough
so he refused to play them for the A&R guy. Well, as fate would have
it we broke up, and within months the songs were heard and signed by someone
else at Atlantic!
My then X boyfriend who was still working at at Atlantic
ended up having to promote the record but he didn't find out until months
later to his dismay that these were the same songs that I had asked him
to listen to, and he had turned them down. He had no idea that I was a member
in the group. So you can imagine how embarrassed he was to see me at a promotion
party sponsored by Atlantic Records and to be reminded that these 2 hit
songs, were the same songs that he had turned down.
Can you tell me how you worked the vocal arrangements
on the early Chic hits and your album?
The vocal arrangements on Chic albums, were layered with
as many as six to seven singers in the background doing as many as 4 overdubs.
This is what created the very heavy choral sound. The leads were done with
the voices often singing a syncopathic rhythm style patterned, often, around
It has been said that you had a deal with Nile'n Nard,
that as soon as they had hit it big they would produce a solo record with
you, is that true?
Yes, I had a deal with them, and once Chic's first album
became successful, I was offered a solo deal with Bearsville/Warner Brothers.
Everyone felt this was a good idea because Atlantic and Warner Brothers
were both housed under the same umbrella, although they were different labels.
The initial plan was that I would continue to be Chic's lead vocalist and
also be allowed to do a solo deal, and that Nile & Bernard would produce
my material. However it became legally complicated and I was not allowed
to continue on with the group which was very disheartening to me. I have
read several erroneous articles stating that it was my decision to leave
Chic. For the record: it was "the powers that be", that made that
choice for me.
On the re-release CD in 2000, the 'High Society' song
has no writers credit (it says: unknown, copyright control), who wrote the
The writers and producers of "High
Society", are Nile and Bernard.
What happened to the second solo album, two songs were
released in 1979 but no album. Were you planning a second album? Did you
record any songs that didn't get released?
- -Peppermint Jam Records, for Michi Lange & Boris
-Strictly Rhythm Records, for Maxz Volume & Reina GO
-Artimage Japan, for GTS GO
-Nervous Records, for Byron Stingly GO
-Norma Jean on Kevin Brook's Disco Savvy
-Norma Jean on Artist Direct GO
-The Lifeball Organization GO
12" Norma Jean on Maxz Volume's 'Get
Up' 2001. (LISTEN)
12" Norma Jean on Michi Lange's 'Louder
Than Words' 2001. (LISTEN)
There was a plan for my second album but Nile & Bernard's
fee was much more than the label wished to pay for a 2nd album. All of my
songs recorded were released.
Did you do any promo video clips associated with your
Chic produced solo project? I got info that you were on Soul Train?
No I did not do any video clips for my solo project. Yes,
I was on Soul Train.
What did you do in the '80s?
I worked with, and did a lot of session singing for, various
artists such as, Luther Vandross, Stephanie Mills, The Spinners, Mtume &
Lucas, D Train, Freddie Jackson, Michael Jackson, Deborah Gibson, Madonna,
C&C Music Factory, the list goes on and on. I also traveled on tour
with a German Artist by the name of Nena, she recorded "Ninety Nine
You released three solo-singles in the '80s can you
tell us a little bit about them?
(Mirage, 1983): The song was produced by Skip Anderson a keyboard player
for Luther, he also wrote the big hit ("There's Nothing Better Than
Love" 1987) that Luther and Gregory Hines sang together.
"Shot in the Dark" (MCA Records, 1984): was written
and produced by Raymond Jones.
"Every Bit of This Love" (MCA Records, 1985):
was produced by Hubert Eaves III of D Train.
You also worked on Madonnas first album how did that
came to pass and which tracks on that album did you work on?
I meet Madonna because we both ended up taking a dance
class together, and after we met each other we would take the train home
together. She didn't know a lot of people in the music business, so I introduced
her to some of the people I knew. On her first album, which was recorded
by Reggie Lucas, I sang backgrounds on all of the songs. Some of them it's
just me along with Madonna. Others included me, Brenda King and Gwen Guthrie
in the background.
There's so much speculation as to the Chic reunion in
1991/2, everyone's wondering if you, Alfa and Luci were asked to participate
on the new album "Chic-ism"? Tony Thompson was apparently tied
up by contract, was it like that for you too? I know this would be at about
the same time as the 'State Of Art' project with Raymond Jones, was this
what prevented you?
Not I, Luci nor Alfa were asked to participate on the album
"Chic-ism." If I had been asked I would only have been able to
perform as a background singer because I was under contract at the time
with Sony/Forty Acres for 'State Of Art.'
Bernard Edwards death in 1996 came as a shock to me.
Do you have any fond memories of Bernard you would like to share with the
Bernard's death was just as much a shock to me as it was
to everyone else because we didn't know he was sick. I have many fond memories
of Bernard he was like the father figure in the group and was really the
backbone of the group. He added the funky element to the Chic sound because
he was really influenced by James Brown and Larry Graham.
Raymond Jones told me that you and Luci Martin have
performed together in clubs and even released a song together, tell me about
Luci & I have, and continue to perform & write
together. We have something coming out in Germany on Peppermint Jam entitled
"Just A Touch Of Love," also in Japan with GTS "Let's Bounce"
and a remake of "I Want Your Love."
How about teaming with Alfa also, and releasing a record?
Yes, Luci, Alfa, and I are discussing doing something together.
What are Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin (besides Luci
doing gigs with you) up to today? The only info I have on Alfa is that she
recorded an album, with St. John's Baptist Church Choir in NYC in the late
Alfa Anderson is married and is presently the Principal
of a school, she still lives in New York. Luci lives in Florida where she
is raising her 9 year old son.
Anyone else of the old Chic gang you're still in contact
Raymond Jones and I still work together and are good friends.
In October you and Luci did a gig in Vienna for an Aids
We performed in Vienna for an aids chairty called The LifeBall
Organization. We are very supportive of the fight against aids.
I have the remake of 'My
Forbidden Lover' which Romina Johnson did last year, it says on the
cover that you and Luci were involved with that, tell me how that came to
Yes Luci and I worked with Romina Johnson, we met her in
Italy while we were there touring.
There has been some discussion about sampling and covers
of your songs (the Joey Negro/Taka Boom remake of 'Saturday'
for instance), some feel it's foolish to try to improve on perfection, what
are your thoughts?
Some of the songs that are redone I happen to enjoy and
then others I'm not so thrilled about.
- -Discuss this interview in the Chic Tribute Forum
-Read my interview with Raymond Jones GO!
photos of Norma
- -Photo one GO
- -Photo two GO
Apart from Lori Gold and Debelah Morgan have you produced
any other artists?
Yes I produced and co-wrote a song for Epic artist, Eric
Gable and worked with and co-produced Maxz Volume, and I co-produced &
wrote for State Of Art with Raymond Jones.
How did it came to be that you started managing artists?
I started managing as an off shoot to writing and production
work. After producing a project on Lori Gold I was asked if I would consider
co-managing her with her mom Rene' Goldstein. That was 7 years ago. Lori
Gold is presently known as Reina, and has had several big dance hits here
in the States.
Apart from the artists you are directly involved with,
are there any you really like and would recommend to us?
I like Jill Scott, No Doubt, Alicia Keys, Jay Z, Celine,
Outcast, Lauryn Hill, The Chemical Brothers, Joe and Toni Braxton. I also
like Jazz artists Cassandra Wilson and Dee Dee Bridgewater, as well as classically
trained Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli. My taste is very broad, and
basically I just love good music in general.
You are mostly involved with dance music, (managing,
writing, singing...) and that side of the music industry today, how do you
feel about the state of the industry and dance music today compared with
when you started out?
I feel that music has definitely become more compartmentalized
then it was during my era. However, good music transcends all categories.
Thank you for this interview. And thanks for clearing
up some things we fans have been wondering about.
You are welcome, and I'm very grateful that after all of
these years I continue to be blessed with dedicated fans such as yourself
and others. Thank You For So Much Love!
And to all readers, if we keep our fingers crossed really
hard, then maybe....just maybe, we'll see that 'Norma Jean Wright & Luci Martin' record in the stores