Vicki Sue Robinson was born on May 31, 1954 in Harlem, New York.
She was of mixed heritage as she was the daughter of black Shakespeare actor, Bill Robinson, and the white folk
singer, Jolly Robinson. She was actually part black, white and Native American.
Unfortunately Vicki died much too early in her home in Wilton, Connecticut on April 27, 2000.
She had been struggling against her cancer for a while and she is missed by her husband and manager Bill Good,
her relatives and fans all over the world.
Vicki only became 45 years old!
I, Discoguy, recently re-found half an interview I did with Vicki just some months
prior to her far too early death. That's why there's only a half interview, we never got a chance to complete it
as she got worse soon after answering these questions.
So, here you'll now get a chance to know more of her story in Vicki's own words...
I had always been fascinated with her name so I had to ask Vicki; Is Vicki Sue your 'real' name
or is it your stage name?
"My 'real' name is actually Vicki Sue Robinson, pretty cool eh?!"
That really is cool !!
As said before Vicki Sue was born in Harlem, New York, but the family moved to Philadelphia where she was raised
during her younger years.
You're from a very artistic family...
"Yes. My mother was and still is a Folk Singer. She was very involved in the political movements for Unions
and Civil rights. She sang with Pete Seeger among others. My father was an Actor."
As the story's told her parents actually first met at a union meeting where Bill was doing recruiting.
I guess with the talents running in the family it comes naturally, but how come you started with
music? Was it something you wanted to do?
"I started singing Folksongs with my mother when I was 6 years old. We sang at Folk festivals and concerts and
schools. There was always music being played either on record, Jazz and Folk, by musician friends of my mother.
I took to singing very early, I believe it has been a Gift I was born with."
Her first public appearance was singing harmonies to her mother at the 'Philadelphia Folk Festival' in 1960. Vicki Sue
was placed on a chair in order to reach the microphone.
When Vicki was around 10 the family returned to New York and at the young age of 16 she got a role in the
original 1968 Broadway production of Hair. In the musical she acted with two other to-become Disco stars,
Melba Moore and Paul Jabara.
She left the production after some six weeks as she had landed a part in a show called Soon. In that show she
played with a young Richard Gere, among others.
Next show she were part of was Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone. That was an off-Broadway play about
Richard & Mimi Farina where these roles were played by Richard Gere and Vicki Sue.
She later was part of the Voices From The Third World program at the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater.
Vicki, which was your first paid work in music?
"I got my first paycheck as a cast member in the Broadway production of 'HAIR' when I was 16 years old."
Have music always been your life, or have you ever done something else?
"Music has really been my whole life. I have been very lucky, being able to make a living most of my life
singing and performing. Oh yes, there were those odd jobs as a waitress in Manhattan when I was a teenager, or
later doing Temp work to fill in for leaner times, but all in all I truly have been blessed to be able to do what
I love and getting paid well for it!"
In 1971 Vicki Sue could be seen with Robert Mitchum in the movie Going Home where she played a Hippie
girl. She returned to the big screen again in 1972 in the movie To Find A Man with Lloyd Bridges (the
father of Beau & Jeff Bridges).
In 1973 she was touring Japan as well as recording there with Itsuro Shimoda before returning to New York
where Robert Stigwood of RSO Records offered her a part in the Broadway success - Jesus Christ
Which was the first song with your vocals put on record?
"The first record I was ever on was 'Something Anything' by Todd Rundgren. I was asked to sing background vocals
with other members of the cast of 'HAIR' while I was in the show. It was fun and he was 'cool'.
I also recorded an album called 'Love Songs and Lamentations' in Japan when I was 18/19 years old. I went there
with the writers Itsuro Shimoda [music] and Marci Sutin [lyrics]. There were three of us in the 'group',
Itsuro, myself and an african-american singer named Alex. We toured while we were there and got a lot of press.
It was really fun, and Japan was incredible.
But the first record to be out under my name was 'Baby, Now that I've Found You' produced by Warren Schatz
under Sunbury/Dunbar RCA. It was one of the demos we had first recorded together. I loved that song. Then
came 'Never Gonna Let You Go', which was the title of my first album. That was released, but 'Turn' ["Turn the
Beat Around"] was getting such a buzz of excitement around it, that they released that right away!"
"Never gonna let you go" was in fact one of the first 12" singles ever released. But it was when recording her
first album and the worldwide hit "Turn the Beat Around" (written by Pete & Gerald Jackson) that Vicki's
career took off big time and she became the Disco Diva she was.
So how did you get signed to RCA Records in 1975?
"I was 20 years old when I met producer/engineer Warren Schatz at a session. I was there to sing background vocals
on an album by Scott Fagan, a singer/songwriter I had been working with in clubs around the village. Warren
loved my voice, and at that time he was with Sunbury/Dunbar, a publishing subsidiary of RCA. He took me in
the studio, we did a couple of demos and the rest is history!"
"Turn the Beat Around" really 'turned the world around' for Vicki who topped the Billboard Disco Charts on
March 20, 1976 and held the position for 4 weeks. The song was also the first Disco hit to crossover into the
mainstream charts where it peaked at #10 in the Pop charts and it remained in the Billboard charts for over 20 weeks.
The rest of the world also took the song to their hearts and it became a huge international success for the young
To top this Vicki Sue was also nominated for a Grammy as Best Pop Female for "Turn the Beat Around" in 1976,
along with Natalie Cole, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt. The Grammy
was finally won by Linda for her song "Hasten Down the Wind".
Another fascinating thing about "Turn the Beat Around" is that Vicki actually nailed the vocals of the song in the
very first take. Besides that she also was the one singing and arranging the backing vocals...
I know you arranged the background vocals yourself for "Turn..." and you cut the lead in one single
performance. But do you also produce and write yourself? Which of your works - Singer, Producer, Writer - do you
"I produce and write a lot of songs with my husband and Partner Bill Good. We have a studio here at the house. My
husband is a talented musician and producer, and working with him has helped me tremendously to strengthen my confidence
in the Studio. My favorite part of recording is arranging and singing all the vocals. I use them as instruments, and
with Bill's direction and collaboration we have a lot of fun experimenting and creating."
Do you have to have different skills in each of these roles?
"Singing comes very naturally to me, so that part is like breathing; but Producing takes patience and the ability
to look at the whole picture, not just one specific part. I like to help with the mixing. I am quite definite about
what I like or don't like. What's too loud, what needs more warmth or brightness etc. We work together very well as
a team, balancing out each others strengths and weaknesses. He has taught me a lot about patience, which has never
been my forte for sure!"
"Turn the Beat Around" has really become a true classic and has been covered and sampled several times. For example
Gloria Estefan held the number one spot of the Billboard dance charts with it in October of 1994 and
Ghostface Killah sampled the song in his "Daytona 500". I had to ask Vicki about her view on covers
"Turn the Beat Around" has been covered several times, most successfully by Gloria Estefan in 1994.
What do you think of covers and how does it make you feel?
"Gloria actually sent me a note saying that 'she hoped she did the song justice' and that she had always admired
my work. It was very sweet. It was strange at first, to be honest. Hearing your song on the radio by someone else,
but my fans came out of the woodwork and ultimately, the success of her version was very good for my career as
And What do you think of sampling?
"Sometimes sampling is used in very creative ways and it's fun to listen to, especially if it is almost in tribute
to the original artist. But I get tired of hearing so much of it. The original songs are obviously what drives the
new renditions and brings them to the pop market as such a success. I'd much rather listen to them on their own. I
would love to hear some new 'music' with melodies and real instruments! Where are the NEW songs? It's time we heard
the new generation find their own creative way. Personally, I think it's been long overdue.
As a footnote to this, I was very disappointed that Will Smith didn't thank
Nile Rogers & Bernard Edwards as writers, producers and players
on 'Greatest Dancer' for his tremendous success and Grammy win. I mean, come on, let's give credit where credit is
As said earlier, Vicki got signed to RCA in 1975 thanks to Warren Schatz, their first 2 singles - "Baby, Now that
I've Found You" and "Never Gonna Let You Go", were not very successful even if they made some stir. RCA
released the album the singles were taken from, Never Gonna Let You Go in Spring 1976 and DJ's immediately found
the track "Turn the Beat Around" and it became an instant hit. RCA rushed to release it on 45 and 12". To follow up the
massive success of "Turn the Beat Around", Vicki and Warren were sent right back into the studio again by RCA and in
late Fall of 1976 they released the self-titled LP Vicki Sue Robinson.
With the new album the successful 'duo' scored another Club hit with the first 12" single "Daylight", a cover
of the Bobby Womack track. The club jocks loved it, but it and none of Vicki's later releases would ever become
as big as "Turn...".
Club jocks also picked up the medley "Should I Stay/I Won't Let You Go" from the album and it was also released
as a single.
The joint success of both 1976 albums made Vicki Sue Robinson a highly in-demand act and most of 1977 was spent in
touring all over the world doing live performances, interviews and attending TV shows.
The 1978 album Half And Half was the last album Warren and Vicki's did together on RCA and they started
out by scoring another number one Club hit with the song "Hold Tight". The commercial 12" single was cleverly
flipped with "Turn the Beat Around" to boost extra sales. There was also a DJ 12" promo released in something RCA called
'the RCA Segue Series' which was a pre-mixed record where 'Hold Tight' had been professionally segued together with
Odyssey's "Easy Come Easy Go" into one almost 10 minutes long track. Perfect for a DJ break!
The second single cut from the album was "Trust in Me" and was another double sided release with "Don't Try
To Win Me Back Again" on the other side. Yet again Ms. Robinson scored huge Club success and she was more popular
with the Club DJ's and crowd than in the radio play and sales. Still the 'Half and Half' album is considered probably the
best of her albums.
Actually Warren and Vicki did work together again; in 1979 they recorded an album called Disco Spectacular. This
was not another Vicki Sue album as it also featured Evelyn "Champagne" King, Revelation, N.Y.C.C
and the Brothers, it was RCA's attempt to cash in on the success of the movie Hair. The songs were all
Disco versions of the classic tracks and they were really close to Vicki's heart as she had been part of the original
Later in 1979 the fourth and last of Vicki's albums on RCA was released, Movin On.
The single "Nighttime Fantasy" gave Vicki Sue another Club hit and the track was also featured in the
horror-comedy movie and soundtrack of Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula. The soundtrack is said
to be MUCH better than the movie and it also include songs by Vicki's friend, Gloria
Gaynor, Moment of Truth and Heaven'n'Hell Orchestra.
RCA later released a second single from the 'Movin On' album, "What's happening in my life", and it had the
albums title song, "Movin' on", on the flip.
None of the albums were any commercial successes and instead Vicki picked up her acting career and landed a part in the
Italian produced black & white movie Gangsters. The movie also featured Nai Bonet, a belly-dancer turned
actress, who played the role of 'Nocturna' in the Nocturna movie.
By 1980, Disco and many of its brightest shining stars suffered from the 'Disco Sucks' campaign and so did Vicki.
Besides taking up session work as background singer, she also started adding her vocals to commercial jingles. Over
the years her voice could be heard in commercials for Gillette, General Motors, Maybelline,
Sprite, Downey and CoverGirl among many others.
As for the background vocals they can be heard in works by people like Cher, Michael Bolton and
RuPaul along with numerous of others.
In 1981 Vicki returned with the funkier track "Hot Summer Nights" on legendary
Prelude Records. It did get some play in the clubs and peaked
at #24 in the dance charts and that was sadly her only release for the label.
1982 starts and our Diva is back again, she's also back working with Warren Schatz again! This time on the new
Promise Records label (a division of MCA) where they release "Summertime Fun" backed with "Admit
it". That released was followed by the great and often overlooked "Give My Love Back" with "I'm Here & I'm
Hot" on the flip, which was released on yet another label - Prefect Records. But none of them manage to get
Vicki back to the top of the charts again.
In 1983 Profile Records signs Vicki and a Hi-NRG cover of Lulu's 1969 classic "To Sir With Love"
is released and now she gets her biggest hit since "Turn the Beat Around". This single was followed up by another
High Energy cover in 1984, this time it was "Everlasting Love" originally sung by Robert Knight in 1967
that gets a complete Dance makeover. While "To Sir..." was the most successful nationwide, "Everlasting Love" was
THE hit in Florida and became a huge success for Ms. Robinson there.
She kept working with jingles and background vocals over the coming years, but there was never anything released with
her name as the artist. During this period in life she had also became a drug addict. But luckily she managed to 'Turn
her life around' and get out of her abuse, much thanks to her manager and husband, Bill Good. She never wanted to go
back and as she said herself in another interview about her abuse and late 90's rebirth success; "I've been to hell
and back. I feel like I've earned it.".
In 1991 RCA remix and re-release "Turn the Beat Around", but they can never get the same success as with the original
release. But in 1994 the Gloria Estefan version of the hit track makes it big all over and the interest for Vicki Sue
and her original is immediately raised. The success of Gloria even lead to Vicki re-recording the track for the B side
of her 1995 single release "For Real".
In 1993 Ms. Robinson was part of The 70's celebration show where she performed together with the likes of
Gloria Gaynor and Thelma Houston, where the 3 Disco Diva's together sang the Gloria DISCO classic "I will
It's not until 1997 she probably get her biggest hit since the 70's, when DJ/Remixer Junior Vasquez is brought
in to work with her on the track "House of Joy" for Pagoda Records. The track was written by Bill and
Vicki and became a huge Club hit and a critic's favorite.
Together with Village People and K.C. & the Sunshine Band she toured
the world and completed 1997 by performing a one woman Cabaret in her native NYC.
In 1999 Vicki returns again with a new single and a new off-Broadway show. The off-Broadway show was kind of a sequel
to her 1997 Cabaret and was partly autobiographical; it was called Vicki Sue Robinson, Behind the Beat and
received great reviews.
The single was released on the Groovilicious label and was called "Move On". Once again the DJ's loved
her work and the success in Clubs all over was a fact. For some reason the song was especially popular in Europe.
Sadly Vicki Sue Robinson was now diagnosed with cancer. She keeps her spirit and joy up and keeps performing, but
slowly she gets worse and worse and in April 27, 2000 she died in her home. Greatly missed by her family, friends and
all her fans over the world, but she will live on through her music.
Download the FREE basic RealPlayer...|
CLICK to hear some Vicki Sue songs...
Don't try to win me back again
Feels so good it must be wrong
Give my love back
Hot Summer Night
I'm here & I'm hot
Trust in me
Turn the beat around
CLICK to hear some related songs...
Turn the beat around
He's the greatest dancer
I will survive
Love is just a heartbeat away (Nocturna's theme)
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I Believe in Love - Melba Moore
Ain't Got No (Reprise)
I Got Life - James Rado
Going Down - Gerome Ragni
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My Conviction - Jonathan Kramer
Easy to Be Hard - Lynn Kellogg
Don't Put It Down - Steve Curry
Frank Mills - Shelley Plimpton
Where Do I Go? - James Rad
Electric Blues - Paul Jabara
Manchester England (Reprise) - James Rado
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White Boys - Lorrie Davis
Walking in Space
Three Five Zero Zero
What a Piece of Work Is Man/Walking in Space (Reprise) - Ronald Dyson
Good Morning Starshine
Let the Sunshine In - Lynn Kellogg
Ain't Got No
I Got Life - Marijane Maricle
Air - Jonelle Allen
Going Down - Gerome Ragni
Hair - Gerome Ragni
Frank Mills - Shelley Plimpton
Where Do I Go?
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Easy to Be Hard - Linda Compton
White Boys - Jonelle Allen
Black Boys - Linda Compton
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