Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

BARBARA TUCKER:Tuckers Luck!

Barbara Tucker
Barbara Tucker

Itâs an accepted fact that every genre of music boasts its own, era-defining musical royalty. And, in the case of house music, thereâs no doubt that the globally-reigning Queen is...

Unquestionably Brooklyn singer/writer/dancer/choreographer Barbara Tucker. Who this month teams up with masterful Ibizan DJ/producer Pepe Tuccillo for her latest single - the forcefully pounding âOne Desireâ.

Having just jetted in from France to perform at the recent 42nd Southport Weekender (as part of the fifteenth-birthday celebrations of New York dance independent King Street Sounds), a black-leather-biker-jacketed Babs takes time out to chill with âB&Sâ in Southportâs VIP Room to discuss her illustrious ongoing 23-year career as the leading lady of soulful dance. Which has seen her collaborations with such top-notch house music producers as Little Louie Vega and Blaze yield UK mainstream chart hits like âBeautiful Peopleâ and 2006`s enduringly anthemic âMost Precious Loveâ; while also enabling her to become the only recording artist to boast a yearly residency at Europeâs sun-kissed clubbing mecca, Ibiza.

âI grew up in Brooklyn, New York. And obviously, like a lot of the house artists, I started singing in churchâ, begins an articulate, professional-mannered Barbara: âAt the beginning of my career of course I performed at the Paradise Garage (legendary Eighties New York club where the term âgarage musicâ was first coined). And, because I was always a dancer, I came up choreographing for artists like Jovann, Michael Watford and Shannon. So Iâve always been around the music business, whether Iâm singing, dancing or acting in musical theatre. You know, music is something thatâs WITHIN me. I feel it; I sleep it; I meditate on it; I feel good about it; and I LOVE it. So, though I actually started out in a club doing background dancing back in 1984/85, once people found out that I could sing too it was a natural transition for me to become a professional vocalist. And from there I just started moving up, working with lots of really good producers - from Tommy Musto, to Danny Tenaglia, to Louis Vega, to Eric Morillo, to Bobbi & Steve, to David Guetta⦠You know, just so many.â

With Barbaraâs skills as a dancer and choreographer having raised her stagecraft to a whole different level from that of the average big-voiced dance diva, her frequent performances across the globe (taking in such far-flung destinations as Russia, Sweden and Africa) have unquestionably increased the worldwide appeal of house music. While her role as co-founder of The Underground Network (the longest-running club night in New Yorkâs history), has seen her becoming a strong force in bringing the scene closer together internationally, partly through her consistent organising of overseas and domestic tours for up-and-coming artists: âWell, while some people say âOh, house music is overâ, the fact is that itâs NOT!â, she asserts forcefully: âItâs a FOUNDATIONAL MUSIC! So itâs not going ANYWHERE! You know, like a stone or like the cement on the ground, weâre here - and weâre not moving! Weâre just EVOLVING! And, for that to continue happening, itâs important that the countries network with each other! You canât just restrict your sound to your block, to your city, or to your state. You do need to move AROUND with this music! For example, Iâve recently hooked up with DJ KFK from Paris, and weâve started doing a lotta work together. So, whether Barbara is in England, France or anywhere ELSE doing something, itâs all about making this thing go round, making it come to the centre, and making it EXPLODE! Because, as I say, house music is going NOWHERE! Itâs here, and itâs gonna STAY that way!â

Despite her strong belief in international networking, however, Barbara is adamant that house music should not lose the essence of its black American origins: âWe all know that house music started in the USA - Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Detroit - and that the black cultureâs soul comes from their GUT. You know, they sing from the PAIN. The reason why the vocalists sing the way they do is because theyâre CRYING OUT! Theyâre naked before the mic! But what happens when the music goes overseas into other cultures is they tend to water it down and almost take the SOUL out of it. Basically it becomes more about the BEATS fitting onto our rhythm. So, while there is room for everybody, we must be careful not to lose the soulful artists that represent the essence of house music. You know, being from the old skool I love Chaka Khan, I love Whitney Houston, and even Teena Marie. I like to hear the PASSION and I like to feel the FLAVOUR of a vocalist. And in terms of house music, while there has definitely been an evolution, I do think that soulful feel is now coming back around.â

Meanwhile, having recently launched her own B-Star Music Group record-label, Barbara remains arguably the hardest-working woman in house music: âYeah, as well as having my own weekly radio show in New York City, Iâm also a consultant for a movie thatâs coming out based on dance music in New York. Then, in addition to my parties, Iâm also still organising âLet The Singers Be Heardâ. Where Iâll bring anywhere from five to 15 artists on at different conferences while Iâm also doing panels. Plus Iâm working on a new album project called âBarbara Tucker Behind the Sheetsâ. Which is all about revealing another part of me that many people donât get a chance to see - Barbara Tucker the woman - while musically weâre definitely gonna be pulling together some different sounds. So I can EVOLVE with the house music and open it up a bit more, so we donât just stay underground. So yeah, Iâm doing artist consulting, artist developing, writing, producing, networking, trying to expand... You know, thereâs just so many great things Iâm working on right now that Iâm really excited about. Because to me itâs all about movement, evolution and growth - on both an artist and industry level.â

The Barbara Tucker & Tuccillo single âOne Desireâ is out now through King Street Sounds (US)
Words: PETE LEWIS
Words PETE LEWIS

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