Interview recorded on March 27, 2012
It’s been over twenty five years since singer/songwriter MELI’SA MORGAN released her debut album, DO ME BABY, on Capitol Records. Recently, SoulMusic.com reissued this classic disc with seven additional tracks, which include the single version of the title track (her first Top 10 R&B hit), as well as remixes of her fans’ favorite, “Fools Paradise.” She made herself available for an interview with “The Soul Ninja” KEVIN GOINS.
Kevin: This is Kevin Goins with SoulMusic.com, and today we have a woman whose CD reissue has been the fastest selling CD on the SoulMusic.com website, and in the history of SoulMusic.com records. She’s a lady who had many hits in the 1980s and into the 1990s, but she’s best remembered for this debut album from 1986; the album, of course, is DO ME BABY, and she is known for hits such as “Fool’s Paradise,” among other great songs. Let’s welcome to the telephone, Meli’sa Morgan. Meli’sa, welcome to SoulMusic.com.
Meli’sa: Thank you; how are you doing?
Kevin: I’m doing fine. I’m doing fine. I want to touch base on this reissue, through the label, and I know you had a great interview with my colleague Justin Kantor for the liner notes. The fastest selling CD that we have had so far, and I just got to say, congratulations.
Meli’sa: Well, thank you. I didn’t know that. You know, it’s always nice to be number one, no matter what you’re doing, so that’s a nice little place to sit. I’m sure there will be others that will come along and knock me off my little throne, but I’ll sit here and hold the crown for right now.
Kevin: Hold and wear that crown, Mel’isa, because I’m sure you’re looking good doing that!
I want to talk about the album in particular, Meli’sa, because it was your first for Capitol Records, and you were working with Lesette Wilson, who was, I believe, Chaka Khan’s musical director at the time. Now, you were singing back-up for Chaka for quite a few years, or what not. How did you and Lesette come together to write a lot of the songs on this album? That’s what people don’t know, that you actually wrote a good chunk of the material on there.
Meli’sa: Yeah, the thing about it is that before I toured with Chaka, I had done a lot of background sessions and stuff like that in New York, with people like Jocelyn Brown and Kashif and up-and-coming dance artists, and stuff like that. So when I had got the call to sing with Chaka, thanks to my dear dear friend, who’s no longer with us, Vesta Williams, who had come to hear me sing at a club in New York called The Cellar. And Lesette got the call to go and sing on a world-wide tour with the Commodores-- Chaka asked her to recommend a singer, and she said call the girl at the Cellar, so it was me.
And, actually, Lesette called me and that developed the friendship with me and Lesette, because she was just looking for a singer when she first called me; she told me that she was Chaka Khan’s musical director. I hung up on her because I thought somebody was playing a joke. So she called me back and said, “No one ever hung up on me like that. The nerve of you! I really am Chaka Khan’s musical director! We’re looking for a singer, fool!”
Kevin: One word for that: ouch!
Meli’sa: Yeah. So we developed a weird kind of relationship on the road. So, after touring with Chaka for about a year, which was a blessing--and Chaka is a wonderful teacher; it was a great school to go to, to learn how to survive on the road. Me and Lesette became friends and we did several things after that, that she was doing, and she came and played for me at the Cellar.
When I worked during the weekends, we developed a relationship. So we started writing together, and we first started writing for other people, but before we could get anything placed with anyone else, I got my record deal through Hush Productions, and that’s how we started writing for my project, “DO ME BABY.“
Meli’sa: So, yeah, that’s what happened.
Kevin: Yeah, and what a great project that it became. It became your first best selling album. Now, “Do Me Baby,“ we all know--it was written by a guy who loves to wear purple, he’s from near my neck of the woods, Minneapolis, the man known as Prince. Now, who’s idea was it to record “Do Me Baby”? Was that yours or was that an idea that came from Capitol, or from Hush?
Meli’sa: It actually came from a guy who was a president of Capitol at the time, named Don Grier, who I don’t even know if he’s still alive. I hope he’s still alive and doing well, but he discovered Sheena Easton, and he was responsible for her success while she was at Capitol. His stipulation really was, when he became president, is that first R&B female that he signed has got to do this song because he had the song “Do Me Baby” on hold for two years.
Meli’sa: So, yeah, so, I was the first one that he signed. So, it came with the signing. There was no question about it. “She has to do this song or we’re going to have a problem.” First, when I first heard the song--you know I’m a teenager--no teenager-- now they do--they don’t care what they sing now, sometimes. But in the ‘80s, in ’86, as a teenager, you know, coming out of college, coming out of Juilliard, I didn’t want to sing that song. But it turned out to be a really good thing. And my father who was alive at the time, encouraged me. He said, if you can sing this song, then sing the hell out of it and don’t question why you have to sing this song, because you’re God’s child and it’s going to be alright. So I sang the song and the rest is history.
Kevin: And what a history it was. It became your first top 10 R&B single; it did very well on the pop charts. I played it on pop radio when I was a DJ in central New York, and I remember getting the promo 45 from Capitol, and I also want to note that Don Grier was president of Capitol EMI here in the United States--may have been responsible for Sheena Easton recording “Sugar Walls,” which was also a Prince composition. So.
Meli’sa: Yes. You see, he loved his Prince songs.
Kevin: There you go. There were other songs …
Meli’sa: I think he really knew the songs that Prince recorded that would sound better, I guess, if a woman sang them.
Kevin: There you go. I mean, look, it was Sheena Easton with “Sugar Walls,” it was the Bangles with “Manic Monday,” and now, here you came along with “Do Me Baby,” and also we’ve got to throw in Chaka Kahn for having a number one record with “I Feel For You.”
Meli’sa: “I feel for you,” yep. Prince did write those songs, in a way, for females, even though, I think it’s his range. It’s his range that probably makes it more conducive for females to adapt to singing his songs.
Kevin: Absolutely. Well, you also brought some great songs to the table as well, Meli’sa. One of them is the ballad “Do You Still Love Me,” which I can still see you on Soul Train just killing the song, on that program, and the classic “Fool’s Paradise,” which I know many, many years later has been borrowed by the likes of Jay Z and Mary J. Blige. And we’ll get to that momentarily, but those songs were also stand-outs on the album, as well.
Meli’sa: Yeah, it was a great time for my writing spirit. Lesette really had wonderful tracks and we kind of meshed, because, really, every track that she brought me wasn’t a hit, but she would bring me something, and I’d say, “No, that’s not good,” because she came from a jazz flavor, you know, more so than an R&B flavor.
So, when she first brought me tracks and stuff like that, honey, I’m not Sarah Vaughan. I can’t sing those kinds of songs. I love them, and it’s fine with all the piano and the chord changes, and I understand it, but this is not what this recording is about. One day we went out to dinner and I was like , “You just can’t write R&B soul,” and she was like, “How dare you tell me I can’t write R&B and soul!” “Well, then just write it!”
And I think that kind of got up her dander, so, and then she came back and she got it. So, “Fool’s Paradise,” “Do You Still Love me,” “Now or Never,” all those songs came from her saying, “How dare you tell me I can’t write R&B.” So she went back with more of a determination to do it and get it right, and it turned out to be classic songs that we still play today on the radio. So we’re thankful.
Kevin: Exactly, and I remember “Fool’s Paradise” was pushed on R&B, or they called it urban radio back then, just some great stuff, and sometimes, Meli’sa, it takes a nudge or maybe even a shove to get someone to really go in the direction that you feel they need to go, and that’s what it sounds like--what happened between you and Lesette. It was kind of like a ying and yang situation there, which works.
Meli’sa: Yeah, I mean you know she had it in her from the Tom Browne stuff, but back then you wore jazz like a shield of armor. It’s like, “I’m a jazz performer.“ it’s like you just came off the road playing Chaka Khan, all these fabulous number one R&B hits; take that shield off and let’s see what else you’ve got. So it was really that kind of thing.
And here’s the funny thing about “Fool’s Paradise.” When “Fool’s Paradise” came out, I don’t think it even cracked the top 40 in R&B. It didn’t even crack the top 40. There was not even trying to hear that; I mean, they played it a little bit and that was it, but it seemed like about 10 years later, it became like this cult song in the clubs that people just could not get enough of. And then what happened--it became a reoccurring song, then, on black radio. So black radio actually plays that song more now than they did when it was released.
Kevin: Because, Meli’sa, you and Lesette were writing material that was really ahead of its time. Let’s just call it what it is.
Meli’sa: Yeah. It was ahead of its time. It really was. And it really--it seemed like it fits in the pop now, ten, twenty years later; okay, it fits now. But, I mean in ’86 it just--I tell you it didn’t crack the top 40. We were shocked. We just knew it was going to be a number one song, and they just wasn’t hearing it.
Then, all of a sudden, 10 years later, it’s like wow, you need to put that in your shows. People, that wasn’t even a top 40 song! But fans were telling me, “Girl, that’s a number one hit. That’s a number one club song. That’s the number one reoccurring played song on black radio.“ It’s like, what? Now it’s history.
Kevin: Right, because I remember being in record retail in New York City during the 1990s and having people come into the record store that I worked at--for folks’ information, I was a retail supervisor for the HMV Music Store in New York City, Upper West Side, and folks would come in and ask for … they’d say, “First question is: Do you have anything by Meli’sa Morgan?” I’d say, “Yes, I do. What are you looking for?”” Well, I’m looking for “Fool’s Paradise.” I’m like, “Really?” Because I remember that record when I was in college, but not many people really requested it.
Like you said, it didn’t even crack the top 40 of the R&B charts. And more people started asking for “Fool’s Paradise.” I’m like, “Are you sure you don’t mean ‘Do Me Baby’ or ‘Do You Still Love Me?’ or ‘Deeper Love,’ or her new album, which was [at the time] ‘I’m Still In Love With You,’ on Pendulum Records. Are you sure you’re not looking for that? “ And they’re like, “Oh, no, we want ‘Fool’s Paradise‘.” Okay.
Meli’sa: It’s very funny. The ones who got it, which we didn’t realize at the time, was overseas, Europe, London; they got it in the ‘80s. America didn’t get it until about 10 years later. They really didn’t get “Fool’s Paradise” until about 10 years later. When I go over to Europe to perform, that is like a number one song over there. So, yeah, it’s really strange, really strange how things turn out.
Kevin: Well, also that speaks to our brothers and sisters in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom and in France and in Germany, where there is a greater appreciation, not only for Rhythm and Blues and soul music, but they’re more, dare I say, open minded when it comes to artists of the R&B soul genre who want to experiment or incorporate other sounds into their music, such as ‘Fool’s Paradise,” such as “Getting To Know You Better,“ such as these records that were very, like you said, Lesette throwing in the jazz chords here and there, you coming off with your vocals … there seems to be a greater acceptance for that, because, dare I say, they were more open minded.
Meli’sa: Yeah, so, I don’t know what it is. Like you said, more open minded, or they’re expansion to getting different music, because they get different music from all over that we get, but like you said, we don’t attach to it.
Meli’sa: They understand African music, they understand music from Germany, they understand different types of music that we kind of put blinders on, and this is what we like, and that’s all we want. They are more world-wide with appreciating the different genres of music.
Kevin: And also, like I said, they walk both sides of the fence, both as a radio programmer and a retail person, seeing that I worked in radio during the 1980s, and I remember just the formats, urban contemporary, contemporary hit radio, which is nothing but R&B and pop, pretty much, and having … if it didn’t fit into those boxes it didn’t get played, unless it was on a specialty format like the quiet storm or a jazz format.
So I think that the album--it was a blessing, because it did very well for you, yet, at the same time, it had stuff on there that, it’s not that it didn’t fit in, but let us say, there are specific boxes that are available as far as radio, as far as MTV, VH1, BET, and what not, and it really took the fan base, your fans basically listening to the records and knowing that this stuff was good, and coming back and saying, “Hey, we want to hear this on CD.”
Meli’sa: Yeah. You just, like I said, once again, you just never know which way fans are going to sway. You can release something, at first, and it’s lukewarm and somebody will say, “Hey, did you listen to that track?” And somebody will say, “But did you listen to that same track?” And before you know it, it becomes like, wow. Everybody’s attitude changes toward what you’re doing. So it’s a good thing; that’s America.
Kevin: Exactly, and, well, speaking of America, I want to shift back, real quickly, about your background--You came out of Queens, you started singing Gospel in the group The Starlets of Corona, and you’re from Corona, Queens, correct?
Meli’sa: Yes, I am.
Kevin: Queens girl. Now, I also want to make note of some of the earlier work you did prior to you hooking up with Chaka Kahn, touring with her and then getting your deal with Capitol. Two things, two recordings, or two projects that you were heard on; we could tell it was you. One of them, Shades of Love’s “(Keep in Touch) Body To Body.” Classic dance record and it’s funny, because as we discussed earlier, Meli’sa, I had no idea that was you until I happened to look it up on the internet. I was like, oh, is that her? Holy smokes, no wonder the record jumped off!! Really quick for our listeners out there, how did you hook up with producer Peter Brown to create that record?
Meli’sa: Well, it was Patrick Adams, “Body to Body” was Patrick Adams, and what happened is that I was really called in to be a background singer for that song, and the lead singer, who was supposed to sing it that day, never showed up. Patrick was like--he asked my friend Don Hamilton, who I used to do a lot of sessions with, “Do you know someone who can sing the lead?” And he said, “She’s right here, you know, Meli’sa!” And right there on the spot, Patrick said, “Do you want to sing the lead?” Back then, background sessions were 50 dollars. He said, “I’ll pay you another 75 dollars to sing lead.” Can you believe? I thought, wow, I’m making an extra 75 dollars!
Kevin: And the record became a hit record, number 26 on the R&B charts.
Meli’sa: Yes, on the dance charts.
Kevin: Yes, on the dance charts; correction.
Meli’sa: Yes, I sang lead and got a number one song and was paid 75 additional dollars to sing lead, but I mean my first gig singing that song was 3,000 dollars! So, God works in mysterious ways, and believe you me they were livid, because I went out. I’ve never been a group person. I have tried to do things with groups. I’ve just never been a group person. I don’t know if it’s my personality or my vocal affectations and strengths. I just was never one who could sit and blend in to the background.
So, I started getting calls immediately, once people in New York and Philadelphia and Washington found out that I was the lead singer. I started getting calls immediately to come out and sing as lead vocalist of Shades of Love, and like I said, my first gig was 3,000 dollars. So I got paid.
Kevin: There you go. So the 125 dollars that you received to record it was actually just like a down payment toward the jackpot.
Meli’sa: That’s right. Yeah, because I made a lot of money on that song. To be just coming out of high school, I made a lot of money on that. That was unheard of back then, 17 years old, making 3,000 dollars a show, being booked three and four weekends out of the month. I made a lot of money. They were livid. They called me and said let’s form a group, Shades of Love; there really was no group. So, then afterwards, they wanted to form a group, and you know, I tried and the girls couldn’t sing and I was like, you know what? I can’t do it. So we just went out and made the money, and that was the end of that.
Kevin: Right. Some were born to lead; others were born to follow, Meli’sa, and you remind me of the old Rare Earth record. You just weren’t born to follow.
Meli’sa: Right. I really just wasn’t, so that’s a good thing and a bad thing, sometimes.
Kevin: Well, exactly. But I also want to touch base on another record that we talked about earlier, before the interview, and that is the record you did with Jacque Fred Petrus, the man who was behind the group known as Change. You had a record called “Feeling Lucky Lately” that was released under the name High Fashion. Now, how did that come about?
Meli’sa: Basically, it really was Petrus. Everybody in New York wanted to work with him because he was paying, and my friend Timmy Allen, who played bass for a whole bunch of the Change material--they were looking for background singers, and he told them, “Get Meli’sa Morgan,” and that’s how I met Petrus.
He had hired me on a couple of background sessions at first, and then he says, “I’ve got group! You need to be in group! You need to be in group! I’ve got group. Two girls and a guy!” So, when I got in the group, there was a lot of the material that was like prerecorded, and I told him, “No, I’ve got to be able to sing on something.”
So I think he let me do one lead on a song or something, and a little piece here and there, and that’s how we did it, but High Fashion really didn’t take off the way they expected, because I think we were all trying to do our own thing, so we did a couple of shows, but it really didn’t take off the way they expected it to. But it was a nice beginning experience.
Kevin: Right, and it was also technically you very first record on Capitol Records.
Meli’sa: Yeah, didn’t know it at the time because, really, I basically was dealing with Petrus, and Petrus was dealing with Capitol. So the label really wasn’t important to me at the time, because we had no relationship.
Kevin: And getting into that relationship, how did you hook up with Hush Productions?
Meli’sa: It was actually through Kashif and singing with Kashif--it really was. I went out on tour with … I sang on his solo album with Arista, and we went out on tour, opening for Gladys Knight and the Pips. It was a wonderful experience, and we had a week on Broadway, and that weekend the guys from Hush, Charles and his brother, Beau [Higgins] came because they were representing Kashif, and they said, “Okay, Meli’sa, it’s time for you to have your own solo deal.” And I was like, “Okay, whatever you say.” And they said come to the office on Monday. I thought that they were, you know, b.s.ing!
And they said, “Okay, listen, come to the office on Monday and lets talk about it.” And I went into the office, and they said, “Well, you know, in two weeks: we can put you in the studio; let’s just get these papers straightened out.“ And back then, I think it was a $10,000 advance, which, I mean, that was huge. That was huge, $10,000 dollars; my goodness. We were doing sessions; we got 125, -200, -300 dollars. We were rolling in the dough! Coming off of tour with Chaka, who pays very well. She’s always paid very well. That was the most money I’ve ever made touring.
And working with Kashif and then doing this and we got paid $10,000 up front, you know, before you even go in the studio. I think it was $20,000 dollars. $10,000 dollars before you even went in, and then, when you finished, you got another $10K. So it was really plenty, but that was huge. Well, okay, you really think that I can do it. And they said, “With our guidance, we can lead you in the right direction. We’ve done it for Kashif and Lilo [Thomas] and Freddie [Jackson] is coming out and we’ve got Melba [Moore]. and we think you’ll be good as part of our stable.“ And that’s really how it went down that day, when I left I was basically signed.
Kevin: What a line up you just mentioned there, with Hush Productions, with Charles and Beau Higgins had. You mentioned my dear friend Lilo Thomas, who I’ve known for many years. Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore, Kashif, and also the great producer Paul Lawrence. What a line up. There ya go. I mean, Hush was almost like the Motown of the ‘80s in a way.
Meli’sa: Yes, they were. They really, you know, there’s no question about it. They really were. They were the Motown of the ‘80s in New York City. And they really roll with it. They taught us, they worked with us, they protected us. You know, they did what they needed to do to keep their artists happy.
Of course, after a while, there is greed; there are things that happen and that just comes with human nature, and then changes have to be made, and that comes with life. So, you know, you do better as you learn better. When you know more, you can do more. So that was really what Hush … it wasn’t that they didn’t take care of us. They really did take care of us. But then they just started taking care of themselves a little bit better.
So then you look at it and say, well, wait a minute. I’ve got an apartment in Manhattan, but they own apartments in Manhattan. Why am I not … why am I paying rent and they’re owning buildings?
Kevin: Right. Exactly.
Meli’sa: Right. It wasn’t that we weren’t … me and Freddie said yes, we had fabulous places; he was on 60th Street, I’m on 67th, but we’re renting and they own buildings. Well, okay, after a while, where’s our money so we can own? So it was that kind of thing. It wasn’t that they didn’t take care of us, but once you open your eyes and you see that you can be taken care of better, then you have to do better.
Kevin: Absolutely. And in ways, Meli’sa, that did happen. If I may just revisit “Fool’s Paradise” real quick. I know we’ve kind of been emphasizing that tune, but it’s mainly because, during … not too long ago, Jay-Z and Mary J Blige--they used part of that song for a camped up, “the Hustle”; I believe that’s the name of that song. Then, Cool Million also used a bit of it. And the fact that you and Lesette wrote that song and what not, so I’m sure that it brought a nice little windfall for you, as well as put your name back out there.
Meli’sa: Yes. I was one of the fortunate ones. I was probably one of the first ones to leave Hush over financial situations, because my father … I was just a little bit more careful about my money than Freddy was, and Lilo, and a few of the others were who got caught. So I was one of the first ones to leave and get my financial stuff in order with them--my publishing, my writing, get all of that removed from their umbrella so that I would have 100% ownership.
At the time that I was doing it, of course, I was … “She’s the rebellious one,” but I was trying to protect my future, and I knew, business-wise, that royalties and writing and your publishing is where your survival mode is. If somebody owns that, if somebody takes that from you, you’re really going to be in trouble, because nobody stays number one forever. We coast, we ride. Aretha Franklin doesn’t stay, even though she’s the Queen of Soul, she doesn’t stay number one forever. She has just learned a survival mode where she can work and be at the top of her level most of the time.
So I became the rebellious one, but you know, now in 2012 when I still get royalty checks twice a year, four times a year for the work that I did in 1980, and Jay Z and Mary J and this one and LL Cool J and all these people that covered my stuff … now Freddie and the people that said I was rebellious--now they understand what I was doing.
Kevin: Right. It’s like what Dr. Dre--I know I’m using a hip hop example here. When Dr. Dre said, when Ice Cube left NWA, Dr. Dre said in an interview, looking back, Ice Cube was the smart one, because he understood, “Hey, I’m writing the stuff and you’re owning it? No.” So he broke away. You did pretty much the same thing years prior to that. You took the situation and said, “Hey, wait a minute; this isn’t right,” and you did what you could to protect what was yours, and look what happened. You definitely reaped the rewards from that.
I also wanted to touch base, also, going back to your work with Kashif, “Love Changes”--the video is priceless, Meli’sa. Especially toward the end of the video, when you and Kashif are on that stage and you’re just singing to one another. Could you kind of tell our listeners, what was it like to, not only record that song, but to do that video, because it looked like you and Kashif were having a ball.
Meli’sa: It was his concept because, usually, we come in all made up and it was supposed to be a performance video, and right after we did the performance thing, he said, “Well, you know, can we just break down and put on some jeans and just shoot some stuff backstage, because that’s the raw stuff.” He wanted to get the raw stuff, and at the time, we’re like, “I’m ready to go home.” He’s like, “Lets just act like we just got here and we’re coming in and we’re going to the dressing rooms, and we’re getting ready.”
And it was just something, because we had shot the performance part already, because you can’t keep the audience too long, and he was just like, “It needs more.” So we stayed around and was laughing and hee-hee and ha-ha-ing, and all the time that we were doing that the camera was just capturing us. And at the end he says, “Come on the stage. It’s after everybody is gone and we’ll make it look like we’re rehearsing before, but we really did it afterward, but we’ll make it look like it’s just you and us just rehearsing the song.”
It was really his concept, but he’s brilliant at stuff like that; Kashif was very good at things like that. I wasn’t even supposed to be on “Love Changes.“ What happened was that we went in to his place; I think he was at the old Jackie Robinson Mansion at that time. We went in at the time to hear some of his stuff and say hello, and I hadn’t seen him in a while. He’s all, “I’m working on this song. I’m doing ‘Love Changes‘.” I said, “Mother’s Finest“ [the group who first cut the song], and he said, “You know them?”
He used to drive a Rolls Royce, drove a Bentley, and he said, “Come and listen to this song in the car,” because people were in his studio. And I went in and listened to the song in the car, and I started singing the song because I knew the song and I loved Mother’s Finest, and he said, “You want to do the song with me?“ I was, like, “Sure!” So, you know, he said “Let’s make it happen. Let’s take care of what we need to take care of, and I’ll see you in a week.”
And that’s really how it happened. He was spontaneous like that. He was very spontaneous like that, which was a good thing. And if he saw talent, if he saw that you could be helpful on stuff, that’s what he did. Whitney Houston’s first album, I was in the studio. I had sung some stuff with him and she came in and was getting ready to do her stuff. And he said, “Meli’sa, stick around and sing some background for Whitney.”
Meli’sa: Yeah, and that’s how I got to sing on “Thinking About You.” That’s how he was. I was getting ready to leave and she came in and I said, “Oh, hi!” “Oh, she’s going to be on Arista. She’s a new artist; Clive really believes in her. Meli’sa stick around and sing some background. Y’all get to know each other.“ And that’s how we became friends.
Kevin: Oh, my goodness; so you sang background on “Thinking About You,“ which I should have known, because I have the album at home and what not, and like many others, was just hypnotized by Whitney and her great talent, and she is sadly missed. And I forgot that, you’re right, Kashif did produce that song, and you were on backup, wow.
Meli’sa: Yeah, and it’s the funniest thing now, but she’s gone and I still can’t believe it, because I just loved her. So we had a special, a very special friendship. We didn’t see each other all the time, but when we saw each other, our hearts just opened up. We cried. We were always so happy to see each other when we saw each other. It was just the most special thing, and when I sang on that album, it was great. She loved it.
They [Arista Records] didn’t put my name on it, and Kashif was so upset. He was like, “They’re going to do it another reprint because the song that I did was called ‘Thinking About You,’ and even on the album, they put the song [as] “Thinking For You‘.” The title was wrong. He said, “When they change it, they’re going to put your name on it.”
And every time Whitney would see me she’d say, “Did you get your plaque for that? Did you get your plaque for that? Make sure you get your plaque! If you have any problems, you tell them to call me.” And I just never did because I thought that she was just going to be here forever.
Now that she’s gone, somebody just put in a phone call for me to get my plaque for her first CD for my contribution, and it’s just the weirdest thing that she’s not here. It’s surreal that she’s not here. I really, really do miss her.
Kevin: And you will not find me disagreeing with you on that, Meli’sa. I’ll just say this because this is the first time that I’ve done an interview since she and Don Cornelius have passed, that it’s just … it’s sad that they’re gone. The contributions that each of these folks have made will take up a whole other interview and then some, and as a radio programmer, as a radio executive, and as a record person, working with labels such as Arista and growing up watching Don Cornelius on TV, and watching Whitney, it’s the impact they’ve made. Like you said, it’s surreal, absolutely.
Meli’sa: It’s hard for me to even talk about her without tearing up. A few people wanted me to say a couple of things. I just can’t. It’s too close to my heart. I’m really happy that now, at least I’m going to get my plaque, and I’ll have that as my memory with her, and I have all my pictures and all the time that we spent together, and I’m just going to keep that dear to my heart and just be thankful that God let my journey through life pass her way.
Kevin: Absolutely. Amen on that, Meli’sa. I just want to just … I know we’re getting close to the 45 minute mark, and I know you’re a very busy lady. I do want to touch base on a couple things. The album I mentioned earlier on Pendulum, “STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU,” which was my favorite album, one of my favorite albums from 1992. I’d like to know, real quick, how did that come about--how did you meet up with Ruben Rodriguez, who was the president of Pendulum, and get that project off, especially the selection of that song, which we all know is an Al Green classic.
Meli’sa: Yeah, I don’t remember where I met Ruben, but I just remember Ruben was a little pistol! He was a pistol! When he walked into the room he was grand, and it was about whatever you wanted, whatever we was drinking, whatever we was doing, I got you. I just loved his confidence and his, “This is my world.” You know what I’m saying?
I just loved that about him, and I met him, I can’t remember exactly where, but I just loved his spirit and how he carried himself. “I’m Ruben Rodriguez!” “Okay, well I’m Meli’sa Morgan!” And we just hit it off, and he said, “I’ve got my label, I’ve got Pendulum coming out and you’re not signed. You need to be signed. You need to be doing your thing, and I can make it happen for you.”
And that’s how we hooked up, and we hung out a couple of times and went to barbeques and got to know each other, and next thing I knew, I was signed and we was in the studio trying to make it happen. I think, if Elektra would have given him a little more support, he would have been huge with everyone like he was with Diggable Planets. I think they got Diggable Planets, but they didn’t get the R&B stuff that he was trying to do, and that kind of hindered him and then hurt him a lot, because Ruben put his heart and soul in everything that he did, but they just didn’t get it.
Like I said, they got Diggable Planets. They got them, I guess, because of the hip hop pop thing. But just straight-up R&B stuff, he was trying to do, basically, bringing back the classic artist, they didn’t get it. That hindered his label. I know he’s trying to do some other things now, and me and him have talked recently. You never know where the Pendulum will swing!
Meli’sa: And I loved doing that project because he understood real music. He really did understand real music. I recorded a lot of that in Los Angeles with Zane Giles, and it was really a good, good feeling CD for me, and Ruben made it that way, and I appreciate him for that.
Kevin: Right, and I’ll say that album was released the same week that the Diggable Planets album came out, and Lords of the Underground’s album came out. It wasn’t called “Psycho,” but that was the single off of it. But when I remember ordering your album through Time Warner, which owns Elektra and distributed Pendulum.
I remember ordering “I’m Still In Love With You,” and I saw your name, and I’m like, oh, my, new record? Meli’sa Morgan? Yeah. Give me 200 copies of that, because knowing that you hadn’t had anything out in almost, what going on 2- going on 3 years, I knew that you still had that audience out there that remembered you from your work with Capitol in the ‘80s. And the whole thing with the classic soul artists making good strides in the early to mid ‘90s, I had a feeling that the record was going to be a hit, and it was. It was a top 10 album for you.
The single went into the top 10. I agree--I do feel that Elektra should have pushed it much harder. I got on the rep’s case. I won’t bog the listeners down with the politics of the business, but I have to agree with you--it was a great album. It should have gotten more promotion.
Real quick, I do want to ask you before we go here, what is coming up for Meli’sa Morgan? I know you’re working on putting together a tour with a couple other great singers. Could you kind of let our listeners know what’s going to be happening for Meli’sa in the next few weeks?
Meli’sa: Well, I have some shows coming up. Traveling to Rhode island and Detroit and, I think, Minneapolis coming up, but the one thing I am excited about is that we’re trying to do … they did a Men of Soul with Freddie and Peabo [Bryson] and Howard Hewett. We’re trying to do a ladies of Soul, a divas of Soul with myself, Miki Howard, Alyson Williams, and we don’t know who the fourth person is yet, but I think it’s supposed to kick off in June, God willing, and we’ll be doing some dates this summer.
Other than that, I’m trying to develop a lifestyle show that would highlight my cooking and decorating, because I renovated my grandmother’s house down south, and I love the whole concept of renovating and decorating homes; so I’m working on that , and my cooking, and I crochet, too, so all of that will be incorporated in that, and trying to get a deal to do a new CD.
Meli’sa: So that’s what’s on the table.
Kevin: So you’ve got the prospective divas of soul project that we hope that will come to fruition, and you all will do a tour soon. You’ve got a new CD that you’re working on, and you’re doing the Martha Stewart thing! Wow!
Meli’sa: Yeah. It’s turning me from a New York girl to a country girl!
Kevin: Right. I understand you’ve relocated, correct?
Meli’sa: Yes, well, I have a house in South Carolina, and I’m there more, and I do have a whole country side of me that I didn’t know was there; it was hidden and every time I go down there, a little bit more of her comes out. So that’s my country girl.
Kevin: Well, someone should …
Meli’sa: I’m loving New York, but I’m really, really loving the lifestyle in South Carolina.
Kevin: They should do an update of the TV show, “Green Acres,” and have you star in it.
Meli’sa: Well, we’re not quite that rural! No, no, no! We don’t want to go way back that far! Maybe if we brought it to the millennium it could have some potential.
Kevin: Well, Meli’sa, I’ve got to say, to wrap things up, again, congratulations having the fastest selling CD that has been released on the SoulMusic.com label--which we’re actually going to change the name to Soul Music Records, pretty soon, but congratulations on that.
Just to let folks know, the expanded version of the reissue of DO ME BABY now available--it has the tunes from the original album, “Fool’s Paradise,” “Heartbreaking Decision,“ “You Used To Love Me,“ “I’ll Give It When I Want It,” “Getting To Know You Better,“ “Now Or Never,“ “Lies,“ and, of course, “Do Me Baby.” And bonus tracks! Meli’sa, here are the bonus tracks: we’ve got the single version of “Do Me Baby.“ We have the interlude/instrumental version. We have the extended remix and the single version of “Deeper Love.“ We have the single mix of “Getting To Know You Better,” and as well as the single mix and the “Paradise Miix” of “Fool’s Paradise.“ So, when folks get this CD, Meli’sa, there’s not only the original 8 songs from the album, but there’s 7 additional tracks.
Meli’sa: That’s beautiful! So make sure you send me a copy. I’m looking forward to hearing it. This is wonderful. I got excited, and it’s me.
Kevin: There you go. Meli’sa, we’ll exchange e-mails; we’ve got your email address. We’ll just bounce something to you. Make sure you send us your particulars and we’ll get that CD to you as soon as possible. If anyone should have it first, it should be the person who created this.
We’re coming up on the 55 minute mark, and Meli’sa, I know you’re busy; you’ve got things to do. You’ve got the Martha Stewart thing, you’ve got the music thing, you’ve got the South Carolina thing, so we’ll leave you at that. Thank you so much for your time and your being with us on SoulMusic.com. Thank you Meli’sa.
Meli’sa: Thank you, God bless. Take care.
Kevin: God bless you, and we’ll talk soon.
Meli’sa: Alright. Bye-bye.
About the Writer
Kevin Goins aka “The Soul Ninja” is a veteran of the radio and recording industries, has authored liner notes for CD collections by Earth Wind & Fire, Melba Moore and Stacy Lattisaw. He's also the producer/host of the Internet radio interview series "Soulful Conversations" as well as a classic R&B show "The Kevin Goins Soul Experience".