Saturday, June 12, 2010

Linda Clifford: “If Her Friends Could See Her Now”

By Deardra Shuler

The beautiful and charming Linda Clifford is a busy lady. Born and raised in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn where she attended Wingate High School, Linda presently resides in Chicago. However, she is was happy to return to New York to be a part of Lehman Center For the Performing Arts “Disco Valentine” presentation wherein she shared the stage with many disco greats such as Carol Douglas, Tavares, The Trammps and Martha Wash, et al.

A child star at age 4, Linda started doing a weekly NY television show with Ray Heatherton called the Merry Mailman at age 7. She also appeared in Star Time at that time with another talented youngster and Brooklynite, Carol Douglas. Linda eventually signed with the Paramount Records label at 14. She appeared with Sydney Poitier and Harry Belafonte in an NAACP television special and then after high school changed directions and started performing with the Jericho Jazz Singers. She later formed her own trio entitled Linda and the Trade Winds and toured with them around the country.

“As child performers, Carol Douglas and I did a lot of the same shows together. Later I started traveling with my own group around the country. I started thinking when I was in Chicago, I could either sing in night clubs 6 nights a week killing myself or I could try and get some kind of recording deal. I heard about Curtis Mayfield's label Courtom Records. I marched over there, introduced myself, and a week later Curtis came to hear me and signed me to his label. Curtis and I did two R&B albums together. That was in 1977. He was an incredible artist, wonderful human being and a special songwriter. I toured with him as well,” recalled the singer/songwriter. “I sing songs that have meaning for people. Who doesn't go through school being mistreated and then when they gain success think, “If My Friends Could See Me Now” chuckled Linda. “Curtis Mayfield's death was such a great loss as was Teddy Pendergast. I worked with Teddy in Atlantic City at the Taj Mahal and toured with him for a while” recalled the former Miss New York. “ You know, nothing in life is promised. We are all the same and death could happen to any of us at anytime. Its sad however when you see an artist that has given so much leave us. It's very difficult” lamented Linda.

Clifford's first album with Courtom was entitled “Linda.” It featured the single “From Now On.” But it was “If My Friends Could See Me Now” that shot up to #1 on the dance charts. Other successes followed such as “Don't Come Crying To Me,” and an Isaac Hayes produced song “Shoot Your Best Shot.” Her smash hit was “Runaway Love,” which topped the Billboard Disco Dance Chart for 16 weeks as #1, reaching the Billboard's R&B chart at #3. Her song “Red Light” was featured on the Oscar winning multi-million dollar selling #1 album soundtrack “Fame.” Red Light earned a Grammy nomination and spent nine weeks as #1 on Billboard's dance chart and was included on another of Linda's hit albums “I'm Yours.”

As a songwriter, Clifford's songs have been sought after by such artists as Cher, Martha Wash and Gladys Knight.

“The money artists are making today is nothing like we earned when I started performing. It's so different now. I hear stories about the money some folks are getting and I go Whoo!!! I think a lot of singing has been lost. There isn't a lot of real singing now. If you are a good singer, these days, singing is not enough. You have to have a gimmick. Take for example, Lady Gaga. She has a good voice but I suspect that in order for her to be noticed, she had to pretty much become a performance artist. Artists have to think -- how crazy can I make myself look in order for someone to notice me-- it's a sad commentary on the record industry today. The unfortunate thing is that there are so many talented artists out there that people don't get to hear because they just don't have a gimmick that stands out enough,” commented Clifford.

Ms. Clifford discussed how the record industry works. “Let's face it. Its show business not show fun. A lot of new artists think all it takes is one hit record. Thinking its all fun and 6 months later they don't have a dime. The record companies are making an investment in your talent and they have to get paid back. They put money out to put your records out there but before you get a dime, the record company gets their investment back. They are not doing it out of the kindness of their heart. It's a business. Artists end up paying for everything: the staff, hotels, buses, food, clothes, studio time, engineers, backup singers. All of that comes out of the artist's pocket,” explained the talent performer and occasional background singer for commercial jingles.

“I was happy to return to my hometown of New York for Lehman Center's Disco Valentine Show where I got the opportunity to share the stage with Rochelle Flemming, France Joli and Randy Jones of the Village People and of course my old friends Carol Douglas, Tavares and Martha Wash. The audience was very supportive,” said the award winning artist and actress who has appeared in the films “Sweet Charity,” “Coogan's Bluff” and “The Boston Strangler.

As a humanitarian, Linda has worked on Jerry Lewis' Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, the Ronald McDonald's House Benefit and with Sheryl Lee Ralph's venture “Divas Simply Singing.”

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