Interview conducted in person in July 1976 in New York City at the offices of Buddah Records on Broadway
Okay folks, this is it.…the lady gives her views on the music biz, artistic temperament, women in business, hit records, coping with success, and other topics...
CURRENTLY enjoying extensive European success with her Van McCoy produced hit. "This Is It", the delightful Ms. Melba Moore recently sat down with B&S to rap about just a few subjects of interest.
For those who may not know, Melba's career has been something of a what-came-first affair. Her musical career really began to take off via various roles on Broadway — she had the starring role in "Purlie" for some time. Cabaret and supper-club work was Ms. Moore's forte for a while but in recent times, she's decided to focus her attention on recording. She realises that through the medium of records(and subsequent live appearances), she's able to reach a far bigger audience. But more about that later….
On The Music Business: "Since I've been in business for myself — handling my own affairs for the most part — I've had to learn about it. Aspects that I didn't even consider before. It's not just up to the producer and the artist. There's a whole other group behind the scenes — the record distributors, the one-stops, the stores. They're the promotional people. If you can win them over to digging your product, you're on the right track.
"I never realised that things like an album's cover were so important. But we did a tour of distributors with Buddah's President, Art Kass, and I realised how important it is to get over to the merchandisers of my product. And it was like a real test. They almost sat in judgement on the album ("This Is It").
"But we earned a great deal of respect and they seemed to like it. And they were really pleased that we should take time out to really get to them — to take the album to them rather than just mailing it like everyone else does."
On Artistic Temperament: "There are so many misconceptions, old wives' tales about that. Sure, it takes a certain kind of person to be an entertainer but then, it takes a certain kind of person to do a whole lot of different things.
"I think it's warped to say that entertainers are 'special'. They're human, nobody's perfect. But it's so much easier to show that bad side — for people to come off the wrong way. Sure, you'll get a certain combination of traits that make up an artistic person but you don't have to be bitchy and nasty as an excuse for your creativity.
"You see, show business is a kinda choice that you make. It's true to say that once you go into it, you're hooked. But you have a responsibility to be at peace with yourself in this business. After all, it is still a loving profession and people tend to forget that.
"It should be an extension of your philosophy of life — it's not true to say that you have to suffer to be great. Because suffering is part of life in general — but you don't look for it."
On Women In Business: "They're getting less defensive, which is good. I think at one point women were enjoying the hard time that men were giving them. Earlier on, it was like people expected women to act like men in order to compete. But now, there seems to be more of an air of cooperation.
"But roles? Yes, women have definite roles, the way men do. They're spiritual, mental, as well as physical roles. Woman is the negative to man's positive.
"But it really doesn't make that much difference as long as you have love, firstly, for yourself. Then you are setting a good example for others, whether you're a man or a woman. You've got to use what you've got regardless. You've got to have tolerance of other people and that cuts across all barriers racial, sexual, whatever."
On Hit Records: "Yes, they are very important to me right now. They're necessary — a necessity. You see, when you come right back down to it, away from television and everything else, a hit record is like the foundation. Singers have to sing! Live music will always be there but records will too!
"Longevity in this business is also very important and that's why you find people like Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand still anxious to get hit records. You would think that they didn't need them because both have reached such outstanding heights within their careers. But you see, they're still aiming for the charts and getting there! Because there are always new people who haven't seen you, haven't been exposed to you.
"Sure, television will do it but folk like Cher and Tony Orlando — you see them all the time on TV but they can't sell records now. Whereas Diana or Barbra — neither of whom appear in any way regularly — they do movies, appear in concert and still sell records.
"The public gets tired of seeing you too often and why buy your record when they know they'll see you on there every week?"
On Coping With Success: "You've got to have a life away from the stage to be able to bring something to the stage. So, you have to be accessible and then away from it all. You have to plan for sanity time!
"How do I deal with that? No one comes into my dressing room an hour before performance. That's the only way I can be assured of the right frame of mind for dealing with performing. You have to plan for rest periods and if that means not hanging out, then you don't hang out!
"You don't go to all the parties after the show, you don't go to all the first nighters you're asked to. You've got to have physical and mental rest — it's tough but you must do it. And usually, the public understands.
"It's the people in the business a lot of times who don't. But I'm going to be getting a farm soon so that when I want to come to town I can and when I don't, no one will bother me!"
On Her Career: "You try to be more than just a hit record artist. You plan, you work at it. You decide what you want.
"Right now, people are accepting me as an r&b singer. They used to put me in that thing of just being a Broadway singer. Now, I want to be accepted by the pop people as well as the r&b people. Because they're both very important to me.
"I realise that I can reach 20,000 people in one night if I'm playing a date and I'm successful with a hit record. So that's my main concern now.
"We have a few songs still in the album that could do the trick. "Lean On Me" will be the new single and if that doesn't do it, maybe we'll try "Free" or "Brand New". Who knows? Certainly we can only work so much from the album before we move on to the next one."
Melba Moore: a lady already well on her way to the top. Look out, 'cos this is it!
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.