The following, previously unpublished interviews with Roberta Flack were conducted four years apart, in 1974 and 1978.
ROUTES readers may recall that Ms. Flack, at the time of the first interview, was scheduled to star in a film version of “Bessie,” Chris Albertson’s biography of blues singer Bessie Smith; that project — currently in limbo — had brought them together two years earlier, starting a friendship that accounts for the unusual candor with which Ms. Flack responds to Mr. Albertson’s questions.
“There are certain things I expect to happen in interviews, and, because we are friends, I feel strange doing this one,” she said as Albertson turned on his tape recorder in a New York hotel room four years ago, “but I’m probably more comfortable, more relaxed than I otherwise could be.” We think you will agree that Ms. Flack’s statement also holds true for the 1978 interview that follows. Ed.
CHRIS: Bessie used to sing Black Mountain Blues, were you really born in Black Mountain, North Carolina?
Roberta: In Asheville, actually my mother told me that I was born in Black Mountain, we just lived there when I was a kid, but I moved from North Carolina altogether when I was five. I grew up in Arlington, Virginia — in the Black section of town, which is called Green Valley, but is really just a postal number in Arlington.
I used to think of it as another town, because you know, that’s where we lived, went to school, grew up and died. My father died when I was about twenty years old, and my mother then moved to Washington, DC, but I was teaching school in Farmville, North Carolina, so I stayed there until the end of the school year. When I came back home, we were living in Washington.
CHRIS: Is that when you got into music as a performer?
Roberta: No, that happened in 1962. I came home one weekend and took the teacher’s exam in Washington, because I did not want to teach in Farmville another year — it didn’t have anything to do with money, I just didn’t know what I was doing down there, they gave me too much responsibility.
I was too young and very insecure, and I was teaching students who were much older than I, particularly the fellows — it just got very strange, and I wanted to leave, so I took this examination, passed, and got a teaching assignment right away.
The job in Washington didn’t start until September, but I arrived there in May, so I got a job playing at the Tivoli, an opera restaurant in Georgetown. Mostly I played piano for opera singers, but I did a few little things of my own in between, little classical things, but I’d also improvise, and I’d end up with Rachmaninoff’s Second any night — by the time I finished I’d be playing Full Moon and Empty Arms to the hilt.
Of course I got a lot of applause, and the more applause I got, the cornier my improvisations became — I’d just stick Clair de lune and Moonlight Sonata into anything, it was great fun for the five years or so that I did it, and I also worked in a vocal studio during that time.
CHRIS: Were you accompanying students?
Roberta: I started out doing that, because the vocal instructor didn’t play the piano at all, but he was teaching the whole time, and I was learning, so soon I became a vocal coach myself — it was very exciting to be working with him, playing at the Tivoli, and teaching school, but in 1968, the seventh year of my teaching career, I got very bored.
That summer I decided I wanted another job. The Tivoli had closed down and I had decided that I didn’t want to work there anymore anyway, but it had turned me on to another whole world, because it was basically an underground place frequented by a lot of gay people, and these were, of course, very sophisticated people, lovers of opera and fine things — it just opened up a whole new world for me, because they appreciated me so much.
Anyway, I told this one guy, Avery Morrison, who used to wait tables at the Tivoli, that I wanted to do something else. He said, “You know what? A friend of mine has a gay bar down on Pennsylvania Avenue, and you ought to go down there, because he’s talking about hiring somebody to play for the brunch thing on Sundays.”
So I said okay, but I didn’t have any idea what I would do; I certainly knew they weren’t going to listen to opera so I got together some things I had been playing, like The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Up, Up and Away, which was big then.
Well, I got the job, playing from 2 to 6 on Sundays for $20, and it just got to be a thing where coming to hear me sing on Sundays was the thing to do; we had lines all the way around the block on Sunday afternoons, even when it rained. It was unbelievable, the most fantastic thing in the world.
These guys who came in there knew everybody. A fellow named Henry Hat gave me my first opportunity to be considered as a recording artist. He knew some people who knew some people at RCA Victor, so he arranged for a recording session, which we did, and he paid for that, but I don’t think the recordings ever got to RCA.
Anyway, people were always doing things like that for me, someone else knew a vice president at Columbia Records, so they flew him down and he sat there and listened to me for a long, long, time; these guys knew everybody, I looked up one night and there were Hal David, Burt Bacharach, David Merrick, and Harold Wheeler, who were then doing Promises, Promises in Washington.
Harold was the rehearsal accompanist, but I knew him as a really fabulous, great musician, and I learned so much by just being around him, so when I saw him, I invited him up to play. David Merrick was drunk, but Harold became the orchestral conductor the following day — it was that kind of place, it wasn’t your ordinary gay bar, it was fabulous.
Believe me when I tell you, there was no end to the people coming in there, and I mean senators, the Kennedys, no end — I had my feet well grounded once I got out there. It wasn’t the money, it never was.
CHRIS: You were developing a style.
Roberta: Not only that, I was developing an attitude, which is the thing that determines how high you fly, anyway. It was all because of the exposure and environment, and that’s very important — I’ve never been able to say that right, I tried to say it about three years ago when a fellow, who used to come into Mr. Henry’s interviewed me for a Washington Post article.
We were, at that point, talking about how many good things were beginning to happen to me in such a large way, how so many people were reaching for so many pieces of me, and how that affected me.
I said I don’t mind sharing, I really don’t, I don’t have any hangups; it’s probably my Aquarian stupidity or my desire to be the savior who can make everything all right for everybody.
Perhaps that sounds selfish, but I just don’t have any problem accepting people as they are, I never have. Anyway, my interest in popular music and in entertaining people with that kind of music developed because I was around gay people, because of this environment and the richness that it afforded me while I was growing — I tried to say that to this interviewer.
I mean it was obvious to everyone that I was growing: I started out playing a terrible little studio upright piano by myself — I went from that to having a bass player, then a drummer, and things just grew by leaps and bounds.
Well, I wanted to thank these people without saying that it was Aaron or Chuck or this one or that one, so I said it was to these homosexual bars that I owed everything, and he put in the article that I said “homos” — that just wiped me out.
My voice instructor, who of course is very gay, said to me “Now pudding, I’m not worried about it, because I raised you — that is not your language, and it never has been.”
So, I’ve tried to say it several times, because people always want to know the truth about how you started, and that’s the truth. I have to thank the gay people and I have to acknowledge them, and I feel that I have probably been able to say it a little better this time, to you, than I have in the past.
The truth should be known, I have those guys to thank for everything.
CHRIS: Once you had left Mister Henry’s, did you ever go back?
Roberta: I went back several times after I left there. Henry was so good to me, he let me go out on the road for the weekend, I had a regular job there, but I could go out for a night. I came to New York City once and did a sell-out concert at Carnegie Hall, and I was back down at Mister Henry’s the next night, doing four shows and ‘bout to die, about to die.
I wasn’t doing the concert by myself, but I think I did an hour and a half, or an hour and forty-five minutes — I was very long-winded; then I went back to Mister Henry’s and did four shows, an hour and a half apiece, and I said to myself “Wait a minute now, there’s something else out there.”
CHRIS: I guess that’s something.
Roberta: Yes, that came through Les McCann. He was working at the bohemian Caverns one week at the end of 1969, and I had been contracted to do a benefit concert for a neighborhood community child center, in a home donated by some wealthy white woman.
He was there and as I played he kept moving closer, until he was right down my throat, right on my fingers — oohh, he just carried on, he had never heard anything like it. The next night the ABC Board closed the Caverns up because of some problem, but he didn’t get discouraged, he just came right on over to Mister Henry’s and sat in — we jammed all night, he played with my guys, and it was so much fun.
The Caverns was still closed the following night, so we jammed and jammed again, and Les said, “I’ve just signed with Atlantic Records and I’m going to call them — goddamn, they don’t know what they’re missing.” So the next night he came back, running up the steps with a tape recorder; I had just finished a set and I was walking back, but he said, “Git your ass right back up there now, Atlantic Records is interested and I’m going to record you while it’s hot.”
So we went back up there and I did practically my whole first album plus With These Hands, which Les eventually talked me into letting him have for his first Atlantic album, Then he gave me Gene McDaniels’ Compared to What in exchange, that was the deal. I had already recorded Compared To What and we were playing it at Mister Henry’s when Les walked in one night.
He said, “Damn,” because he liked what I had done to it, and the next thing I knew he had recorded it live with Eddie Harris at the Montreux Jazz Festival and they were going to release it, so I said, “Whaaat?”, because my album had just come out.
I got so hurt when they released that single by Les, and I couldn’t picture why he would allow it to happen, because he had told me that Compared To What wouldn’t even be included in his album, that’s what he said. My album was just beginning to take off and there was no indication that any track in there would do anything, but they figured if there was a single potential it would be Compared To What.
I felt betrayed, but then when I matured a little bit to the point where that kind of thing no longer was shocking, I still saw that it was wrong, but realized that it wasn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Actually, when I listen to it now, I think the arrangement on Compared To What is terrible, and I don’t know how I could have allowed it to happen. The arrangement is terrible, I really think so, but I don’t think the arranger [Bill Fischer] is.
When I laid down the first track with Ron Carter and Ray Lucas it was fabulous; I mean Ron Carter sat there and just created stuff around me, and I had never worked with anybody like Ron Carter, I just trembled when I met him. He said, “Listen, it’s cool,” in such a nonchalant way, “just play what you want to play,” and then he built that thing around me — it was great, but then my producer, Joel Dorn, stepped in.
Joel was new to producing, I was new to recording, and I don’t know what Bill Fischer’s arranging credits were, but I doubt if he had ever worked with anyone like me before, or with this kind of sound, because it didn’t come off like that: I just knew that it wasn’t right, and I sat up in that studio and cried. said “No, that’s not right, the strings are not in tune, the horns are not in tune.”
Bill and Joel said, “Oh, we can fix that,” but what does that mean? When I think of what I’ve tried to work for, musically, and when I think of the standards I’ve tried to reach, I can see why people with backgrounds similar to mine hesitate to really get out there and get involved in the business of it, because people talk you into anything.
I don’t really blame anybody except myself for the way that record sounds, at least that particular cut. I actually thought that I somehow would be able to transfer to the record whatever artistic things I felt — I gave everything I had, then they took it and said, “No, we’ll do this and we’ll do that.”
Now I have matured to the point where I know that making a record doesn’t make you an artist, and that being an artist doesn’t necessarily mean that you can make a record, particularly one that will sell.
In my opinion, there’s no point in making a record unless it’s going to sell; you can record in so many other ways for posterity, future reference or just your own personal satisfaction, but to become involved in the record business is to sell records, otherwise it’s a total waste and you just end up owing people.
That’s what it’s all about, but I didn’t know that, I didn’t understand. Now I know where those guys are coming from — they may never know where I’m coming from, but I know where I’m coming from, and there’s no more threat of any veil of illusion being pulled over the kid’s eyes. I know why I’m there, I’m there to sell records, and when I don’t want to sell records anymore or when I can no longer sell records, I won’t be there — it’s that simple.
CHRIS: Have the people at Atlantic changed their attitude toward you since then?
Roberta: They have always felt that I was a little bit crazy, and they still do, but until I’m certified insane they’ll let me make an album or two.
They don’t care, I mean, really, because I don’t compromise and I’m not interested in any side or fringe benefits.
Hmm, it’s strange to be talking like this, because two years ago I never would have said it, even if I had known it, but I’m not interested in any of those little extra things that can be provided artists by record companies; I’m not interested in any parties, not even press parties. I figure if they are going to spend $35,000 on me, give it to me and let me decide where it’s to go; I have no interest in, you know, caviar at fifty dollars a pound, and I don’t want to fly Mick Jagger and nine thousand other famous celebrities in to make me look good, or whatever.
CHRIS: That doesn’t sell records.
Roberta: Not only that, you can’t invest it. What do you get out of it? A headache, that’s all, and that has nothing to do with selling records.
My relationship with Atlantic Records is fabulous — I don’t know if it will stay that way, but they really dig me and I really dig the company; they don’t bother me and they have never encouraged me to do anything but record, and that’s what they are supposed to do.
CHRIS: Linda Hopkins and I were guests on a television show recently, and…
Roberta: I feel sorry for Linda, because when I listen to her on television I realize that she is not a very literate person, and when I hear Black people talk like that I get very frightened for their safety.
You see, one of the reasons Black people are not as far ahead in any area in this country, particularly in this country, as we perhaps could be with the talents that we have, is because we are so desperate; once you get there, it’s very hard for you to really open up your heart, your mind, and your soul, and to reach back and bring in everybody that you can — white people do it all the time.
It’s just very hard because you’re afraid. “Yeah, she can sing, but Jesus, I’m singing too,” that’s a sadly prevalent attitude, and, of course, it’s not the thing to do, because you yourself suffer when you don’t afford yourself the opportunity to help somebody — that just means that your growth is stunted.
I think that just the act of giving somebody else that opportunity is what gets you motivated, gets your motor running, so to speak, in terms of what you yourself are doing. It happened like that with Les and me, and it’s happened like that with other people that I’ve tried to reach back and help.
CHRIS: Was Donny Hathaway one of those people?
Roberta: I don’t know if it was really through me that Donny came as I understand it, he had several things happening for him when I decided that I wanted him to do some arranging for my second album. We went to the same school, and I knew him through my ex-husband, who worked with Donny for a long time as a bass player.
If I had any authority or pull, I wasn’t aware of it, but I think Donny is one of the greatest living musicians in the world, a genius, and I wanted him to share some of that with me on my second album.
He did four arrangements, and we used two of them, Reverend Lee and his own song, Gone Away — it went very well, but they didn’t want to pay Donny what he was asking for the arrangements, so I made my first stand-flat on-your-feet-and-don’t-budge move when I said I wanted Donny to do the arrangements, and when they said it couldn’t be done I broke down in the most hysterical cry I could get together, and it got done.
He arranged his fanny off for the sessions, and I think things changed from then on, Jerry Wexler became his producer and things just sort of moved for Donny.
CHRIS: You mentioned your ex-husband, and I know he is white, are there pressures on Black performers to discourage interracial relationships?
Roberta: I think there are two sides to the question you’re asking: the Black-white issue in general and how Black entertainers have to relate or move within that — because it does exist — and a personal relationship between a Black entertainer and a white person.
As for the latter, I don’t deny the fact that I was married, but I don’t think it is necessary to discuss who I was married to; if the marriage had worked out, there would be every reason to discuss it, but nobody wants to discuss something that didn’t workout — so that’s my attitude about that.
There is a lot of pressure to have entertainers or people who are in the public eye state their personal feelings on major issues like relationships between Black and white people — the pressure is there, but I don’t feel that any of that has anything to do with what I’m doing, and the reason I’m taking so long to say this is because I must point out that I cannot, in the business that I’m in, surround myself with people of one distinct color.
I’m in a multi-faceted business that includes peoples from all the countries of the world, and I’m selling records not only in America, but in Australia, South Africa, Brazil, and so on. It seems to me that the pressure point should really be at its peak during that moment when a performer decides whether or not he wants to enter this business; once you get into it, it’s a little late to start trying to isolate yourself and say that you are only going to perform for Black people, or white people because music is played on the radio.
Radio stations may identify themselves as “Black” or “white,” but everybody listens to them, and Black record stores love to sell records made by Black performers to white people, because the money is the same color.
So that’s business, but when I have to choose where I want to spend my private moments, I don’t think it’s anybody’s business nor do I think it needs any explanation or justification. I refuse to allow anyone to force me to explain who it is I like to go out and party with, or why. Right now I’m ready to tell the world that it’s a Black man, but it ain’t always been.
CHRIS: Recently, when I hosted a television series, I noticed that some of my Black guests, people I have known for years, assumed an air of hostility, but only when the cameras were on. Isn’t that…
Roberta: It’s foolish, it’s just the wrong thing to do. One of the greatest things that has happened to me in the last fifteen years is that I have become aware, as most Black people in this country have, of what being Black really means, particularly in this country.
I have at least lifted the veil of illusion, and seen some things a little bit more clearly.
In that regard I’m always on guard for the man, whatever color, who is out to destroy me, to see me fail, trip me up or trap me with drugs or whatever other things I might allow him to do — whatever his color, and he ain’t always white, that’s the sad part about it.
It wouldn’t be good, but it would certainly lend more credibility to the attitude of a number of Blacks if everybody white in America was really ugly or if everybody Black in America was really beautiful, but that’s not the way it is.
Of course we want everybody to be beautiful, and we want all the people with whom we have to live on a day to day basis to be people who share our love for humanity, but that also is not the way it is. Just as readily as we accept the fact that somebody wears another size shoe or prefers another color, we should allow people to have their own personal preferences for anything.
My royalties are not paid to me in terms of records sold to white people and records sold to Black people, and not even the strongest, most militant Black performer out there gets such a royalty statement, so there’s no way of knowing who is buying your records or listening to them — I think those things must be considered.
A number of strides have been made for Black performers in the record business, and if Bessie Smith were alive and as big today as she was in her day, she’d be a zillionaire — she’d have to be. You cannot judge people on the basis of color, you just can’t.
CHRIS: Why are you planning to leave the peaceful atmosphere of Alexandria for the noise and pollution of New York?
Roberta: I’m really growing old and changing, because this time four years ago I swore I’d never move to New York, it just frightened me.
Well, I’m moving here because it’s convenient and the hotels are just ridiculous, I can’t stand that. As long as I have to spend this money, it’s cheaper to have an apartment and have somebody take care of it for me — I’m not giving up the house, I’ll just have an apartment here.
The summer of 1978, four years, four albums and several concert tours later, finds Roberta Flack living comfortably in a luxury co-op apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. She has sold her house in Alexandria, Virginia, to Gil Scott Heron and recently purchased 33 acres of land in New Jersey to house, among other things, her 25 dogs and cats. Her latest album, “Roberta Flack,” is ready for release and another, with Donny Hathaway, is well underway.
CHRIS: You all but disappeared there for a while, where were you?
Roberta: Working my hind parts off — yeah, working. I’ve been recording and working in Europe a lot. I went to Japan in 1975 and again in ‘77, and I went to Australia, New Zealand, Yugoslavia and Poland during that same time period. I worked like a dog in Australia, but they loved it and gave me incredible reviews.
It sort of tells you what kind of people the Australians are, in terms of what they want to hear, because I think Gladys Knight had come in, and Dionne Warwick was there, but, according to the press, none of them did well.
They love Frank Sinatra and Gordon Lightfoot, and they are really sort of pure musical fans; I understand Ike and Tina Turner came in and that the promoters expected them to blow the Australian people away with all that they had to offer, but they didn’t do too well either.
Japan was really incredible, too. They pay very, very, very good money and they really respect artistry; they are given to art, they’re not dealing with hit tunes, your price is not based on your current hit tune, or the lack of one — I’ve never had that experience before, it was just a good feeling. I had people in Japan almost pull me down off the stage, I almost got electrocuted.
Well, people don’t react to my music like that anywhere else, I was singing Killing Me Softly and they wouldn’t let me stop singing, they were saying, “Kissing me softly with his song, kissing me softly.” I have pictures of me in the biggest hall in Tokyo, there’s not an empty space anywhere — all these little Japanese people, and I mean this was like a twenty-thousand seat hall … for me, no opening act, no nothing, just me — do you know what a trip that was?
So, of course, I went back the second time, but I don’t know if I would go back the third time if I were asked, because it’s too far away, and it’s lonely, and it’s just hard, but it’s nice to know that they love you enough to want you.
Anyway, you asked me what I’d been doing, so I did that, and then I was looking for material for my new album, the Blue Lights In the Basement album.
CHRIS: Wasn’t there an unusually long time between albums?
Roberta: No, not actually. One came out in 1975 and the other in 1977.
People think it’s a long time because Feel Like Making Love didn’t create the kind of furor it was supposed to, I guess, and they forget that Feel Like Making Love was also a hit single.
The album should have been out within two or three weeks after that song went on the charts; as it was, the song stayed in the number one position for three or four weeks, and came off before I got the album out — that was very bad, it took me too long to finish it.
The fact that people forget makes me feel good in one sense, because that means they are anxious for something else, and the fact that the response to Blue Lights In the Basement was so good after that long period sort of proves and justifies my attitude, my approach.
Now I’m working differently, it didn’t take me as long to finish Blue Lights as it did just to get the material together, because disco had just hit when I got ready to do that album.
Let’s face it, I’m trying to sell records and I know there’s a market for my kind of singing, and then all of a sudden there was an abundance of people singing soft, slow ballads — Barry Manilow came along, Melissa Manchester, all this since Feel Like Making Love, I just felt that people, in time, would be ready not only to hear the sound of my voice, but to hear the music that I had so carefully worked on.
It’s not a matter of disco, funk, straight ballads or old standards, it’s what’s on the record, what happens in that little space of three minutes that people can share with you, that they remember — that’s what counts, the Bee Gees are proving it. It’s whatever you put down onto that little disc — does it work, do you hold on to that magic.
That’s what took me so much time to get ‘Blue Lights’’ out, that’s what determines when I finish, whether the magic is there. It’s all about magic with me, not about having a tremendous voice — I mean we’re not talking about four octaves, and we’re not necessarily talking about strong character representations in the songs.
Bessie didn’t do that either, but there was so much magic there in her every note, every word, every syllable, so it didn’t make any difference.
CHRIS: I think there’s a lot of that magic in your first album, in songs like The Ballad of the Sad Young Men.
Roberta: That’s one of my all-time favorite songs, and I think I sing my ass off on that one.
CHRIS: You’ll get no argument from me on that. Is it a gay song? I ask because the last verse seems to indicate that it might not be.
ROBERTA: No it doesn’t, really, because it says, “Tired little girl does the best she can, trying to be gay for a sad young man.”
Now you can take that in a lot of ways. I got that song from a guy who was gay, and I never even thought about anything else when I sang it, because I was singing at Mr. Henry’s, which was primarily a gay bar, and whenever I did that song there were always gay people in the audience and I always sang to them.
When I got to “Tired little girl does the best she can, trying to be gay for sad young man’’ I was thinking about two of my girlfriends who fell in love with fellows who revealed themselves later as being gay, or just were gay from the git. You know what I’m saying?
It’s not unusual for a heterosexual female to fall in love with a gay man or, in fact, for a gay man to feel something for a woman who is not gay. So I delivered the line like that, here was a woman who was tired— not physically, but perhaps emotionally tired — a woman, or even a man, who was emotionally tired of dealing with this person who was, in their society, considered a rare individual, someone who stood out and demanded a lot of attention.
A strictly heterosexual reading of that song would be very anti-feminist, and that’s not where I was coming from at all — it was all gay, straight down the line, I mean that’s the way I did it.
Of course I was surrounded by them, it was my very, very beginnings as a performer, and I was very encouraged by their response, I mean they screamed — you would have thought I was Judy Garland when I did that song; they screamed so much that I would have to sing it three times in a row, and it became like an anthem. I could always count on getting the attention of everybody in that house when I did that song.
CHRIS: Barbra Streisand and Nina Simone also started out in gay bars.
Roberta: Of course, Judy Garland has always thrived, even in her death, on the love of gay people, of the gay community.
One of the reasons I accept the gay community as such a tremendous force in terms of entertainment is because they, more than any other individual segment of our society, obviously seem to be sensitive to the creative arts, and a number of people in the creative arts are gay.
Naturally, entertainers of the caliber of Ella Fitzgerald, Bette Midler and Nina Simone are going to be supported by the gay community, because so many of the gay community are involved in the world of art and understand it.
CHRIS: Not to mention Mabel Mercer.
Roberta: Child, honey, please! or Sylvia Syms. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing, I mean it’s great. I’m glad there are gay people, that there are people, period, who have the ability to be that sensitive to somebody else’s efforts to make you smile or laugh or cry, or to just share their feelings.
A lot of people like your music because you’re something to grab on to, they don’t like the music because they get into the music, they don’t know the words to Sad Young Men — they like the melody or the beat, but there are those people who do go inside of the lyric, who go inside of the performance and completely immerse themselves in what you are doing. I’m telling you, that’s the best audience in the world — it could be a group of pall bearers for all I care, if they gave that up to me I’d sing my drawers off.
CHRIS: I hear you did just that in Israel this summer.
Roberta: It was wonderful, great. The audiences were extremely responsive to me although I had been forewarned that the Israelis were very conservative and laid back; we didn’t do one concert without people rushing forward to us at the end, they were so appreciative. ‘Blue Lights’ had been released there about a month or so before, and it was doing very well — the song Donny and I did was a big hit there, they liked that.
CHRIS: During the hiatus, there were conflicting stories about you having remarried. Did you get married?
Roberta: We won’t discuss that … sometimes I feel like I did get married, sometimes I feel like I didn’t, but that’s the way with relationships. As one matures one discovers that one can live alone, and function — you know, make it. So, sometimes I’m married, sometimes I’m not — it’s really a trip.
CHRIS: You’re occasionally seen at discos. Do you dance?
Roberta: Maybe, once or twice. I think dancing is fun, I’m a lot more active, physically, than I was when I met you; I go to the gym three times a week, most weeks, and it really does work when you go diligently. I’m using a system that involves pulling and pushing, and lifting weights — it really can’t miss.
I guess I’m sort of like Alberta, I don’t have any interest in going out partying, so, therefore, disco has to be extremely magical to excite me, because I’m most interested in it from a listening point of view. I felt that what Donna Summer tried to do with her last album was great to tell a story — and I think there’s a place for all kinds of music as long as it taps the pulse of the people who listen to it.
I also think our responsibility as true artists and musicians is to know where we best fit, and I don’t see myself as a disco performer — not that I couldn’t, but I don’t necessarily think that’s the best place for me. I may try it one day.
It’s all about magic with me, not about having a tremendous voice…