Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Essra Mohawk

Essra Mohawk is one of my favorite semi-obscure artists. Born Sandra Hurvitz, she began as a songwriter for other artists and was a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention before launching her solo career. She changed her name to Essra Mohawk (Mohawk being her husband's surname) in 1969. In 1970 she released Primordial Lovers, which was named one of the best twenty-five albums ever made by Rolling Stone, and a string of acclaimed albums followed. But record company mismanagement hampered her career and she never got the recognition she deserved in a market flooded with talented female singer/songwriters.

One reviewer called her voice "a remarkable instrument -- not the shrill piccolo of Joni Mitchell, nor the darker, mesmerising recorder of Laura Nyro, but more a multi-range brass and woodwind hybrid yet to be invented." Essra opened for the Grateful Dead, Cream, Procol Harum, and Jimi Hendrix. She has sung with John Mellencamp, Carole King and Al Jarreau. Her vocals appeared on the Schoolhouse Rock songs, “Interjections!”, “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage”, and “Mother Necessity.” Her songs have been recorded by The Shangri-Las, Vanilla Fudge, Tina Turner, and Cyndi Lauper, who had a number three hit with Essra's "Change of Heart."

Essra still tours and records. Her latest album, "Love Is Still the Answer", was released last year.

This article is cross-posted from my MOG, where you can also find relevant audio and video clips.

See also:
Wikipedia entry
Allmusic bio
2003 interview