Dance Divas

BBC World Service

In this two-part series, Queen of Clubland Martha Wash tells the story of underground dance music in New York from the perspective of the female vocalists, DJs, talent scouts and remixers on the scene in the late 70s, 80s and 90s. As their careers develop, so does the music as new technology and outside trends inform the underground scene.
All the contributors in this first episode are linked by one underground night club which would help lay the foundation for modern dance music – the Paradise Garage.

We meet Carol Cooper, whose career began as a music journalist in the late 70s and  would later become a pioneering A&R for major labels.

Yvonne Turner was at the Paradise Garage every weekend, she would first work in a vinyl shop and then began her career as a producer and remixer at Streetwise records. Production was a field dominated by men. She would create some of the most important dance music remixes of the mid 80s, before Chicago house became the dominant underground genre.

Sharon White is a legendary DJ and one of the first women on the scene. She would step in for Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage, in addition to holding a residency at gay superclub The Saint. Before that, she was the first female Billboard chart reporter and first female head of dance music promotion at Motown. 

Gail Sky King also DJ’ed several times at the Paradise Garage. She came to DJ’ing through roller disco and held a residency at RnB club The Red Parrot. She edited a huge number of the dance tracks coming out of New York in the 80s, through her work at Shakedown Studios and became a renowned remixer and composer.

Judy Weinstein would book artists for live performances at the Paradise Garage, electrifying vocalists such as Jocelyn Brown, Gwen Guthrie, Loleatta Holloway and Martha Wash – whose vocals would feature on some of the biggest dance hits of the 80s and 90s. But like the producers and remixers, they too would have enormous difficulties getting credit for their work.

Produced by Victoria Ferran
Story editor: Petal Largie

Broadcast:   Soon  on BBC World Service