Published Mar 22, 2011Loleatta Holloway, one of the all-time great disco divas, has died. She was 64 and had been suffering from "a brief illness," according to her manager, Ron Richardson. The New York Post attributes the cause of death as heart failure.
Holloway was the preeminent female singer associated with the influential Salsoul sound. Signed to Salsoul subsidiary Gold Mind Records, Holloway's soaring, gospel-infused vocals made a string of era-defining records between 1976 and 1980. Though never as successful as Donna Summer or Gloria Gaynor, in time, she has proven to be at least as influential.
Holloway began singing gospel at a young age. By the early '70s, she was recording epic ballads for Atlanta-based GRC (home of the "Hotlanta" Sound) and had a No. 10 hit in 1973 with "Cry to Me." The label went bankrupt and Holloway debuted on Gold Mind with Loleatta in 1976. Teamed with iconic Philadelphia disco rhythm section Baker-Harris-Young, she showed immediate aptitude for grandly arranged dance anthems.
"Hit And Run," from that album, was remixed by an up-and-coming Walter Gibbons to create one of disco's earliest and all-time greatest twelve-inch singles. Other big songs during her peak era included "Runaway" with the Salsoul Orchestra, guest vocals on "Instant Replay" by Dan Hartman and "Catch Me on the Rebound."
Further albums Queen of the Night, Loleatta Holloway and Love Sensation followed, with Love Sensation's title track becoming her signature song. In 1989, Black Box sampled the song without permission for their UK No. 1 song "Ride on Time." Holloway successfully sued them.
Three years later, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch bit an even larger sample for their U.S. No. 1 hit "Good Vibrations," for which Holloway was credited and paid handsome royalties.
Holloway leaves four children and nine grandchildren.