Thelma Houston Part Two
I grew up with her song “Don’t Leave Me This Way” on the Disco floor, and now I’m paying her back with this blog, entitled Thelma Houston Part Two.
Houston continued recording music into the 1980s, beginning with the RCA release Breakwater Cat which reunited her with Jimmy Webb who produced her debut single Sunshower and which like their earlier collaboration was a commercially over looked critical success. During the December 22, 1984 Billboard magazine interview,Houston admitted to “‘ no real commercial success‘ since the single ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way‘ broke on the Pop charts in late 1976“ indicating that the disco backlash had left her with “no real base of audience support“ and that her current album Qualifying Heat, executive produced by Houston herself, was a concentrated initiative to restore her as a viable chart presence; the album featured three cuts from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis – including the single “You Used to Hold Me SoTight“ – and production work from Glen Ballard, Dennis Lambert, Cliff Magness and– in his first known recording work – Lenny Kravitz (then billed as Romeo Blue), who each produced a cut apiece. “You Use to Hold Me So Tight“ became Houston‘smost successful post-1970s release with a # 13 R&B peak, but its parent album wasa comparative failure – charting # 41 R&B – and Houston would not cut anotheralbum for six years.
The constant ranking of her 1980s releases as moderate or minor R&B hits led Houston to concentrate on alternate exposure. After appearing in the independent film The Seventh Dwarf in 1979 Houston made guest-starring appearances into the mid-1980s in several popular television programs including Cagney & Lacey, Simon & Simon – a January 1986 appearance that featured her performing “You Used to Hold Me So Tight“ – and Faerie Tale Theatre. Houston also appeared in the 1987 CBS after school special Little Miss Perfect (1987) – as “Prison Singer“ – in the 1988 film And God Created Woman.
On the May 19, 1985 NBC broadcast Motown Returns to the Apollo Houston performed“What a Diff‘ rence a Day Makes“ in the guise of Dinah Washington. Houstoncontinued to contribute to movie soundtracks, recording “Keep It Light“ for the1985 film Into the Night and she remade Bill Withers‘ “Lean on Me“ for the 1989film entitled Lean on Me. Houston also co-wrote and sang back-up on the song “BeYourself“ for Patti LaBelle‘s 1989 album of the same title.
The Fall of 1990 saw the release of Houston‘s first album in six years, Throw You Down, a long-planned collaboration with producer Richard Perry which briefly extended Houston‘s career as a minor R&B chart presence. The title song reached #5 on the U.S. dance chart. A remix of “Don’t Leave Me This Way“ was released, and once again charted on the Hot Dance Club Play chart at # 19 in 1995. Subsequent singles include “I Need Somebody Tonight“ and “All of That“.
In 1994, Houston participated in an AIDS benefit at New York‘s Algonquin Hotel,performing gospel music with Phoebe Snow, Chaka Khan and CeCe Peniston as “Sistersof Glory“. Intended as a one-off performance troupe, the Sisters of Glory remained together – with the addition of Mavis Staples and Lois Walden, and without Chaka Khan – to perform at Woodstock ‘94. Houston performed with the Sisters of Glory for the Pope in Vatican City and in 1995 Houston, Phoebe Snow, CeCe Peniston, Lois Walden and Albertina Walker recorded the Warner Brothers album Good News In Hard Times as the Sisters of Glory.
Houston provided lead vocals on several tracks of guitarist Scott Henderson‘s 1997Atlantic album, Tore Down House, and in 1998 she made cameo appearances in two films: in 54 Houston portrayed herself singing “Have Yourself a Merry LittleChristmas“ supposedly at Studio 54, and in Beloved Houston played ‘One of TheThirty Women‘.