Interview by pocat for, November 2001

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 long time.

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 of Germany.

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.

Norma Jean's Chic produced album in 1978, re-released in 2000. INFO, BUY: (US) (EU)

Norma Jean's album with Raymond Jones Community in 1991. BUY: (US) (EU)

Norma Jean's Chic album in 1977, incl. hit: 'Everybody Dance'. INFO, BUY: (US) (EU) 

12" Norma Jean 'High Society' 1979. (LISTEN) BUY: (US) (EU) 

What did you do before hooking up with Chic?

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 out?

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 before.

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 me.

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 front Chic?

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 New Yorker.

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 the bassline.

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 song?

The writers and producers of "High Society", are Nile and Bernard.
-Peppermint Jam Records, for Michi Lange & Boris Dlugosch GO
-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 GO
-Norma Jean on Artist Direct GO
-The Lifeball Organization GO

12" Norma Jean on Maxz Volume's 'Get Up' 2001. (LISTEN) BUY: (US) (EU)

12" Norma Jean on Michi Lange's 'Louder Than Words' 2001. (LISTEN) BUY: (US) (EU)

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?

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 Love Balloons".

You released three solo-singles in the '80s can you tell us a little bit about them?

"Love Attack" (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 fans.

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 this?

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 80's.

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 with today?

Raymond Jones and I still work together and are good friends.

In October you and Luci did a gig in Vienna for an Aids charity?

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 be?

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.
Listen to RealAudio clips:
-Norma Jean Wright & Luci Martin vs. Luis Radio
'Holiday' (Equal Records)
'Got A Love For You' (Strictly Rhythm) BUY: (US) (EU)
-Discuss this interview in the Chic Tribute Forum GO!
-Read my interview with Raymond Jones GO!
-View photos of Norma Jean:
-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 soon? ;-)