Last night Loleatta Holloway sadly passed away aged 64. She embodied the disco spirit of the ’70s and her music was the soundtrack to the backdrop of sexual liberation the gay and black dancers felt as the decade exploded into one huge party. Loleatta has touched the hearts of dancers on the Northern Soul scene and influenced House producers, as her voice reached to four decades of dance music devotees.
Pete Heller and myself met Ms. Holloway when we were offered her services on our cover of ‘Shout It To The Top’. A middle-aged lady with a large scar on her chest, she asked for a few scotches to get warmed up. Looking back, she was like a vintage car being started, a few miss-starts and stutters, then, all of a sudden, the engine purred. As she moved up through the gears, everyone in the studio came alive and the magic we were looking for filled the room with love.
Quite a while later Pete and I went back to Chicago and met up with her to shoot the video – and my all-time H.O.U.S.E. moment happened. The tape player in the SUV was playing a Ron Hardy Music Box cassette we had just got at Gramaphone records – and, as we cruised the South Side looking for locations, Ms. Holloway, with her friend and hairdresser for the week, Chicago legend Candy J, sat behind us telling stories. Throughout that week she was always a professional, wonderful , warm, lovely lady. The video we had shot featured some iconic Chi-town DJs, who were all happy to appear free of charge for a record featuring the Queen of Disco. Extras in the shoot included her brother, son, nieces and nephews.
We sadly saw another side of Chicago when we insisted on taking Loleatta and her family to lunch at a Greek restaurant. Despite her initial reluctance, which at the time we didn’t understand, she rose above the lacklustre service and rather snide attitude that seemed to offend and shame us more than her (or at least more than she let on…).
Lolleatta made music that trascended genres, genders – and just about anything else that starts with “g”. The woman is the Queen of Disco, made music with Salsoul, sung at the Garage and I helped out in the making of a record with her, which is something I’m so proud of. God bless Ms. Holloway.
Words: Terry Farley