This is....

Vicki Sue Robinson

Vicki Sue Robinson

Vicki Sue Robinson is mostly remembered for her worldwide smash "Turn the Beat Around".
But this fine young artist who got her big break at 20 had already performed in the original cast of the Broadway musical 'HAIR' as well as acting in movies and touring Japan.
Read on for an interview and more info on her career and life which sadly ended due to cancer in year 2000.

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...

Vicki Sue Robinson - name logo

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.

A young Vicki Sue Robinson 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 Superstar.

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.
Vicki Sue Robinson Singing 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 singer.
A happy Vicki Sue Robinson 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 prefer?
"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 and sampling...
"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 well."
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 due!"

Vicki Sue Robinson - Never gonna let you go 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.
Vicki Sue Robinson - Half and Half 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 Broadway cast.
Vicki Sue Robinson 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.
Vicki Sue Robinson in Show 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 survive".
Vicki Sue Robinson - House of Joy 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.
Vicki Sue Robinson - Move On 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.

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CLICK to hear some Vicki Sue songs...

Admit it

Don't try to win me back again

Feels so good it must be wrong

Give my love back

Hold tight

Hot Summer Night

I'm here & I'm hot

Nighttime fantasy

Summertime fun

Trust in me

Turn the beat around

CLICK to hear some related songs...

Turn the beat around
Gloria Estefan

He's the greatest dancer
Sister Sledge

I will survive
Gloria Gaynor

Love is just a heartbeat away (Nocturna's theme)
Gloria Gaynor

HAIR - original Bway Cast Delux Edition CD
Click to buy from
BUY HAIR - original Bway Cast Delux Edition CD from the US BUY HAIR - original Bway Cast Delux Edition CD from Europe
Disc 1:
Aquarius - Ronald Dyson
Donna - Gerome Ragni
Sodomy - Steve Curry
Colored Spade - Lamont Washington
Manchester, England - James Rado
I'm Black
Ain't Got No
I Believe in Love - Melba Moore
Ain't Got No (Reprise)
I Got Life - James Rado
Going Down - Gerome Ragni
Hair - Gerome Ragni
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
Black Boys - Diane Keaton
White Boys - Lorrie Davis
Walking in Space
Abie Baby
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
Disc 2:
Ain't Got No
I Got Life - Marijane Maricle
Air - Jonelle Allen
Going Down - Gerome Ragni
Hair - Gerome Ragni
Dead End
Frank Mills - Shelley Plimpton
Hare Krishna
Where Do I Go?
Electric Blues - Linda Compton
Easy to Be Hard - Linda Compton
White Boys - Jonelle Allen
Black Boys - Linda Compton
Walking in Space
Good Morning Starshine
Red Blue and White - Marijane Maricle
Sentimental Ending
Interviews With Galt MacDermot

Vicki Sue Robinson was very productive and yielded success in both singing and acting. From her early days on Broadway stages over worldwide fame through hit songs like "Turn the Beat Around" to close the circle in the off-Broadway stage.
She lived fast, she lived sometimes hard, but she always could give joy to her audience.
I'm happy she managed to share some of her life with me in my interview, even though she was already sick at the time.
This was the life story of the Disco Diva who unfortunately was taken away much too early...

Vicki - no matter where you are...
I'm sure you keep...
"Turn the Beat Around"

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