Thelma Houston Gets New Grammy to Replace Trophy Broken in Northridge Earthquake: ‘I Had the Three Pieces Sitting Up Proudly’


Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of Northridge, Calif.’s 6.7 magnitude earthquake. However, the day additionally marked a distinct seismic occasion for artist Thelma Houston. That’s as a result of the onetime Motown singer was offered with a brand new Grammy Award to switch her unique 1978 statuette that was damaged in the course of the 1994 Northridge quake.

Thursday night time’s presentation — in recognition of Houston's greatest feminine R&B vocal efficiency win for the No. 1 R&B/pop dance gem “Don’t Leave Me This Way” — was made on the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live in the course of the venue’s An Evening With Thelma Houston, offered by American Express.

“I’d been carrying the Grammy with me in three items for years,” an excited Houston advised Billboard in a telephone interview previous to the presentation. “The horn portion of it was all smashed in. So the Grammy of us mentioned, ‘We’d higher do one thing about that.’”

With near 50 years within the enterprise (“But who’s counting?” she says with fun), Houston exhibits no indicators of slowing down. She’ll be boarding The Ultimate Disco Cruise subsequent month (Feb. 14-19), becoming a member of Kool & the Gang, KC and the Sunshine Band, Rose Royce and Gloria Gaynor, amongst others ( for more information). And she’s nonetheless performing her 90-minute one-woman present My Motown Memories & More, now in its fourth yr.

Houston’s want checklist transferring ahead is sort of easy. “I simply wish to proceed to be in good well being,” she says, “and do what I’ve been doing as a result of I adore it a lot. That’s what has saved me motivated and impressed. It hasn’t all the time been about having a success document.”

While chatting with Billboard, Houston — a self-professed Janelle Monae fan — additionally talked about how Motown founder Berry Gordy initially wasn’t enamored of “Don’t” and why she was “mopping the kitchen” when she realized she’d gained in 1978.

Why it was tough giving up her damaged Grammy. “Someone advised me years in the past that I ought to get it changed. And you do have to surrender the previous one. But although it was damaged, that Grammy had all my vibes. It had been there with me via all of the modifications in my life. So although I used to be enthusiastic about getting a brand new one, it was nonetheless exhausting to switch it. I had the three items sitting up proudly. People may assume I used to be being cavalier about this, nevertheless it’s simply the other. It meant loads to get this [initially], and it nonetheless means loads as a result of everybody that data doesn’t get a Grammy.”

Not attending the Los Angeles ceremony at which she gained. “This was my second nomination. For my first [best female R&B vocal performance for 1974 single “You’ve Been Doing Wrong for So Long”], I went to the Grammys in New York that yr however didn’t win. When the second nomination got here up, I used to be like, ‘Oh, I’ve acquired robust competitors this time [including Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Dorothy Moore and Diana Ross].’ My reasoning was I wasn’t certain how I’d reply in the event that they didn’t name my identify. I used to be at house [in L.A.] mopping the kitchen after I acquired the decision that I’d gained. [Former Motown executive] Suzanne de Passe was saying, ‘I can’t consider you’re not right here and also you gained.’ That’s the most important remorse I’ve in my profession: that I wasn’t there to obtain the award myself.”

How she got here to document the dance anthem. “Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes recorded it first. Suzanne was Motown’s head of A&R on the time. She heard the tune and thought it might be nice for a lady to sing. She and Hal Davis [who produced the Jackson 5 and others] got here up with its disco association. I felt good about it when it was carried out; that individuals would certain take pleasure in dancing to it. But I had no concept it might change into the hit that it did.”

Berry Gordy’s underwhelming response. “The tune virtually didn’t get launched as a result of Mr. Gordy, the primary time he heard it, was like, ‘Umm, I don’t hear it.’ I used to be so dissatisfied. But Suzanne [who had signed Houston to Motown] felt strongly concerning the tune and launched it. This was in the course of the time when DJs enjoying within the golf equipment had been changing into very highly effective. If a tune acquired a great reception there, that would assist push it to radio.”

Motown’s 60th anniversary this yr and ongoing legacy. “Motown is the place I had essentially the most recording success. I’d add that I used to be additionally the primary solo feminine artist on the label to win the Grammy for greatest feminine R&B vocal efficiency. Lots of people don’t know that. But there are additionally plenty of good reminiscences: touring with the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations … When I needed to be within the music enterprise, they had been who I regarded as much as. To have ended up on the identical label and labored with them means loads.”