Loleatta Holloway, the powerhouse gospel-trained vocalist behind such dance-floor classics as “Good Vibrations” and “Ride on Time,” died last night at the age of 64. Her manager, Ron Richardson, said that Holloway had suffered from a “brief illness.” The New York Post reported the cause of death as heart failure.
Dance music has always been rich with little seen but widely heard singers like Holloway—character-actor types whose voices and hooks you might know instantly, but who you’d be hard-pressed to identify. Holloway was one of the great unseen forces in ’80s and ’90s dance music, her rich, brassy voice dominating dozens of disco and house anthems. Maybe you know her 1980 No. 1 dance single “Love Sensation,” or maybe you don’t…
…but chances are pretty good that you’ve heard it in at least one of these before:
Holloway started as a gospel singer in the early ’70s, but quickly turned to soul music, charting her biggest Hot 100 hit with the ballad “Cry to Me” in 1975. Holloway hit her stride, though, at the end of the decade, when she was recast as a disco diva and recorded such soaring period staples as “Love Sensation” and “Hit and Run.” Fading in popularity in the 80s, Holloway was reintroduced to the public towards the end of the decade with a series of dance hits that used her voice for their hooks—some without her permission, like Black Box’s “Ride on Time,” over which Holloway sued the U.K. house group.
Most famously, in 1991, Holloway was featured on Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations,” the chart-topper that announced pop-rapper-turned-actor Mark Wahlberg’s arrival as a star. “Vibrations” used the now-iconic “It’s such a good vibration / It’s such a sweeeeet sensation” lyric from “Love Sensation” as its chorus hook, crediting Holloway on the single and featuring her in live performances of the hit on tour. Holloway had some more minor dance hits in the 21st century, including a recent reboot of “Love Sensation,” and recently had her “We’re Getting Stronger” sampled by Whitney Houston for her comeback single “Million Dollar Bill.”
Between Loleatta and Nate Dogg, pop music has lost two of its all-time great hook providers in the last week. Take a minute to be grateful for those who don’t need top billing to make an unforgettable impact on the top 40.