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Friday, June 21, 2013

Bob Esty Interview Part 4: Dusty, Lesley, Cher, Barbra

Bob Esty is truly a legend in his own time. A producer, songwriter and arranger who worked with Casablanca Records from 1977 to 1980, he has collaborated alongside major divas like Donna Summer, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Martha Wash, Raquel Welch and many more. It is my sincerest pleasure to have spoken with Bob over the phone when he generously consented to give me the following, exclusive interview. I have divided it into parts for easier reader consumption and digestion because it is such a delicious treat. 

In the 4th and final part of this interview which, again, it was a great privilege for me to conduct, our discussion involves Billy Preston, Whitney Houston, The Weather Girls, Paul Jabara, The Day of the Locusts, Dusty Springfield, Lesley Gore, Cher, Barbra, Michelle Aller, Sally Kellerman, Scott Snapp and more.

Check out Mr Esty's Facebook Page:


Bob Esty: We [Bob and Paul Jabara] wrote a song for The Weather Girls called "Success" about the fact that even though "It's Raining Men" is a success, it's not really. We used every trick in the book when we did this song and I did the track along with "Hope" [for the 1982 album, Success, that also includes the disco classics, "Dear Santa (Send Me a Man for Christmas)," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" and "Hungry for Love"], a song I previously did with Billy Preston.

In 1981, Paul put out"Hope" and "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls on the Paul Jabara & Friends album. It also had Whitney Houston's breakthrough track on that album ["Eternal Love"].

Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: And to think, throughout the '80s and '90s, people were declaring Disco was dead!

BE: Ha! Exactly! When Paul's album was being made, I also told him that record stores would put it in a "Compilations" bin and nobody would notice "Hope" was on it.

DJBB: I read that, in 1977, you and writing partner Michelle Aller wrote "I Found Love with You" for Dusty Springfield, and that you opened at The Troubadour for Lesley Gore.

BE: Yes, Michelle and I opened for Lesley and we had a band. I don't know how we got that gig! I never saw Lesley Gore perform live before, but I loved her. I didn't know Dusty Springfield was in the audience. Anyhow, her producer of the It Begins Again album, Roy Thomas Baker, contacted us and said, "Dusty really loved your song. Do you want to record it with her?" I got to arrange and orchestrate the whole thing. And I just loved working with Dusty! And Michelle and I sang in the backgrounds with Dusty. And that was the first time we had one of our original songs recorded.

DJBB: The rumors are that Dusty Springfield was often difficult to work with. Not just rumors but it's been reported by others who have worked with her and was dramatized in the play I saw last year in New York, Forever Dusty.

BE: Dusty? Well, not for me. For me, she was great. Incidentally, Michael Childers did the photography for It Begins Again, and was the lover of [director] John Schlesinger. And that's when I met Schlesinger because I did an arrangement of "Hot Voodoo" for the movie, The Day of the Locusts. And that number was performed by Paul Jabara in drag.

DJBB: I love that moment in the movie! And what a great, underrated movie that is!

BE: Right? Yeah, it was, and I went to the filming of Paul's sequence.

DJBB: And sequins?

[Bob laughs.]

BE: Michael Childers now does a self-tribute photography show in Palm Springs called "One Night Only" with many artists from LA and NYC, and this year it included the music of Michael's friends including Paul Jabara. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it.

DJBB: Bob, when Donna Summer died, was that just as much a shock to you as to the general public? Or did you know she was ill at the time?

BE: No, I had no idea. Patti Brooks knew from the nurses in the hospital Donna was in. But it was a shock. It happened so fast! And she kept it secret from everyone.

DJBB: Cher is our new Pier Dance Diva for NYC Pride. You were the one who set her on her disco path, making her the dance diva she is today once you produced her ultra-successful and legendary "Take Me Home." How did that all come about?  Up to that time, she was really not a Disco girl.

BE: I met her in a bungalo with my leg in a cast.  I'd just broke my leg at the New York Disco Convention that year. She was just the "regular" Cher; no make-up. But to really talk about Cher, we'd have to do another blog piece.

DJBB: Streisand. What was it like making the disco smash "The Main Event" with her, and was it intimidating to work with her?

BE: Well, that would be something we'd need to devote another blog piece to, also. I can't go into that quickly.

DJBB: Bob, just one more question before we wrap this up: What would we find on Bob Esty's turntable, iPod or cd player today? What are the songs you most recently listen to?

BE: When you produce and do recordings, there's a tendency to not want to listen to anyone else. And now, especially because of Facebook, in order to post things, I have to re-listen to so many things I've done. Glenn Rivera and Jandry: these guys do such a great job of remixing! And I've helped Jandry on some of his medleys. Also love Jandry's artwork and posters.

DJBB: I love what those guys have done, too, all around.

BE: Yeah, amazing! And now I'm working with Sally Kellerman and Scott Snapp. Sally's been performing in L.A. and Palm Springs and has her book out now, Read My Lips. Plus, I'm working on a remastering of Ava Cherry's Streetcar Named Desire album.

DJBB: Bob, all good things must come to an end, and I just want to thank you a lot for your time and participation. Thanks so much for this interview. It meant so much to me to be able to ask you the questions about your career I've always wanted to know. I'm sure it means a lot to the readers of my blog and others on the Internet.

BE: Yes, certainly. Thank you.

DJBB: And thank you for commenting on my blog and Facebook. Most appreciate it.

BE: Sometimes I can't comment on the blog when I want. Don't know why, but....

DJBB: Believe me, they don't make it user-friendly. Bob, thanks ever so much for everything! And have a good night.

BE: Ah, a night off! Thank you, and to you, too.


Below, the disco classic disco hit written by Bob and Michelle Aller takes this interview home. But we'll be hearing more about Cher -- and Babs -- soon. Exclusively from Bob Esty!

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