SEPTEMBER 16, 2004 – Weather Girls singer IZORA ARMSTEAD (b. July 6, 1942 in Galveston, Texas as Izora Rhodes) died at age 62 of heart failure at the San Leandro Hospital in East San Francisco, California.Izora was something of a musical prodigy and began playing the piano at an age four. Her mother and various teachers encouraged her natural ability and, by her teens, she was studying classical music at the San Francisco Conservatory. “Anyone who, like me, is from the old school, will practice the basics to improve their all-round mastery,” she maintained. “Perfection can only be reached through practicing.”Armstead earned a teaching credential at the city’s Conservatory of Music. The mother of 11, she worked as a cabdriver and bartender before becoming a professional singer. In the mid-1970s, she met Martha Wash when they both joined the San Francisco gospel group NOW (News of the World).
They soon came to the attention of the producer Harvey Fuqua, former mentor to Marvin Gaye at Motown, who had moved to the West Coast and was now producing the flamboyant Sylvester for the Fantasy label.Rhodes and Wash sang back-up on most of the transvestite star’s hits including “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Dance (Disco Heat).” Rhodes and Wash proved such a smash with club and television audiences that Fuqua decided to launch them as a separate entity called Two Tons O’ Fun, in obvious reference to their voluptuousness.
The two original members of The Weather Girls were Martha Wash and Izora Armstead, and although the mainstream pop market considers the team a one-hit wonder for “It’s Raining Men” (though the song did not make the Top 40 in the US, peaking only at #46 on the Billboard Hot 100), they recorded three songs in 1980 which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart under the name Two Tons o’ Fun: “Earth Can Be Just Like Heaven” and “Just Us” (which also made #29 on the US R&B chart); and the Hi-NRG song “I Got the Feeling” in 1981.
They were brought together by Sylvester as his backing group (from 1977 to 1981), who also gave them the name Two Tons O’ Fun.The two also backed Aretha Franklin (on “Freeway of Love”), and Bob Seger (1986). They are best known for their 1982 #1 club and pop hit, “It’s Raining Men”, the recording of which music producer Paul Jabara supervised and from which the name “The Weather Girls” was derived. After the success of “It’s Raining Men,” other hits with the original line-up (which adopted the Weather Girls moniker permanently after the hit) included “Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man this Christmas)”, for which, as with “It’s Raining Men”, an accompanying music video was made, and “No One Can Love You More Than Me.” The group disbanded in 1985, while Wash moved on to a solo career, one that continues into the present day. (Wash also sang lead on the song “Everybody, Everybody” for the group Black Box, and recorded with C+C Music Factory at the peak of that band’s popularity in the early 1990s.)By now married to her second husband, Izora Rhodes-Armstead, as she had become, was concentrated on raising her large family but, in the early 1990s, she relaunched the Weather Girls with her daughter Dynelle Rhodes.
The new duo based themselves in Germany, signed to the local subsidiary of WEA Records and recorded two albums entitled “Double Tons of Fun” (1994) and “Think Big!” (1995), and in addition to non-stop touring, the mother/daughter act recorded a collaboration with the Rapino Brothers and a host of other dance producers. Izora even blossomed as a songwriter, penning several tracks, including the rather daring “The Sound of Sex (Ooh Gitchie Olala).” “I wrote this with my daughter,” she said. “It’s not really as dirty as it sounds.” The mother-daughter team also covered Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and Rhodes-Armstead brought her career full circle when she duetted with Jimmy Somerville on a reworking of Sylvester’s 1979 disco hit “Stars.”In 2002, they joined the “Disco Brothers” for a participation in the German National Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, with their song “Get Up.” In the end, the group only managed a 13th place out of 15. The Weather Girls released a new album, “Totally Wild,” in late 2005. It scored an underground club hit with “Wild Thang.” Like the original Weather Girls, the duo has proven successful with its gay male core audience.In 2008, the Weather Girls were listed as featured artists on the song, “Break You” by Ralph Falcon of the bands Murk and Funky Green Dogs.
This song spent one week at #1 on the American dance chart in May 2008.Famous for her joie de vivre, her love of bingo and her cooking skills, which she often displayed backstage, since she insisted on taking her cooking utensils on tour in a big trunk, Rhodes-Armstead always argued her belief that “every being is, in its own way, sexy and beautiful. Our audiences expect our music to be gay and positive. Reality for many people is grim and depressing and, for this reason, we want to pass on our energy and drive and to bring pleasure through our music.”“It’s Raining Men” has endured better than most of the Eighties Hi-NRG records, such as Divine’s “You Think You’re a Man,” “Searchin’ ” by Hazell Dean and even “High Energy” by Evelyn Thomas. In 2001, the former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell topped the British charts with a cover version of “It’s Raining Men,” which was included on the soundtrack to the film “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” but she couldn’t better the Weather Girls’ exuberant original.