Published on July 27th, 1996 | by Gerry Galipault0
Donna Lewis, always forever
It must be nice to feel wanted. Just ask British singer-songwriter Donna Lewis.
After honing her craft at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, she played in several cover bands before setting up a home studio to record her own songs.
That’s not all that unusual. Artists have been doing the same thing since the advent of rock ‘n’ roll.
Now, here is where Lewis’ story takes an odd turn:
She first tested her songs in clubs in Birmingham, England, then with a demo tape in hand, she packed up her dreams and flew stateside in search of a recording contract.
“When I first came over here,” Lewis said recently, “people that I came over with had a few contacts with various labels and I didn’t get a deal from anyone, but we had a very positive reaction, so we decided to come back later.”
In a visit with friends in Woodstock, N.Y., Lewis came across Robbie Dupree, who in 1980 had a pair of Top 20 pop hits (“Steal Away” and “Hot Rod Hearts”). He heard Lewis’ demo and offered to get it into the right hands.
“Through the people he knew, Jerry Marotta heard my music and stole the tape from Robbie,” Lewis said. “And he sent it to Atlantic and later they contacted me.
“Robbie was trying to get some budget together to record the album, because he’s very friendly with Tony Lavin and David Sanchez, that group of well-known session musicians. Robbie was mad because Jerry picked up the tape and took it.”
Atlantic wanted to sign Lewis, but first they had to find her. Marotta, informed that he wasn’t the label’s choice to produce her, nonetheless gave them a phone number in England that might help.
“The funny thing was,” Lewis said, “when I was in England, I got a call from the manager of the Fine Young Cannibals, called John Mostin. He rang me up and said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but my phone’s been going all day from this American record company wanting to track you down. Do you know anything about it?’ He said, ‘I’m calling you to see if it’s okay if I give them your number.’ “
Had they not found her, Atlantic officials were prepared to hire a private detective to do their work for them.
Why all the fuss?
Just listen to “I Love You Always Forever,” the first single off Lewis’ debut album, “Now In a Minute.” Atlantic knew they had a smash when they heard Lewis’ sultry, Kate Bush-like vocals, the whimsical, Cyndi Lauperish qualities and lush, soaring harmonies.
And they were right: “I Love You Always Forever” debuted at No. 95 on Billboard’s pop chart last week and jumped 30 notches to No. 65 this week.
Lewis is stunned by the turn of events.
“It’s happening so fast,” she said. “Although I thought it was a good song and a potential hit song, I’m still shocked by how it’s been received, because it’s one of my simple little songs that I’ve written.
“I’ve been writing for a long time, but if I had a goal, it’s to have a successful album that appeals to the public and sells a lot of records and reaches all those people. I still can’t believe that it’s just starting.”
BWF (before we forget): The gold-selling “I Love You Always Forever” peaked at No. 2, denied the top spot by “Macarena,” and spent 41 weeks on Billboard’s pop chart. … Lewis returned to the charts in November 1997 with “At the Beginning,” a duet with Richard Marx, from the film “Anastasia.”