Izora Rhodes-Armstead (July 6, 1942 – September 16, 2004) was an American singer-songwriter. Known for her distinctive alto voice, Armstead first achieved fame as one half of the successful act Two Tons O' Fun who sang backup vocals for American disco singer Sylvester. After gaining their own record deal, they released three consecutive commercially successful songs which all peaked at number 2 in the dance charts. The duo was renamed The Weather Girls in 1982 after they released the top-selling single "It's Raining Men", which brought the duo to mainstream pop attention. As a duo, The Weather Girls released five albums and were heavily featured on Sylvester's albums.
|Birth name||Izora M. Rhodes|
|Also known as||Izora Redman|
|Born||July 6, 1942|
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Died||September 16, 2004 (aged 62)|
San Leandro, California, U.S.
|Genres||Disco · house · R&B · post disco · soul|
|Occupation(s)||Singer-songwriter, record producer|
|Associated acts||The Weather Girls, Sylvester|
After The Weather Girls disbanded in 1988, Armstead released a single, "Don't Let Love Slip Away" (1991). In 1991, she reformed The Weather Girls with her daughter Dynelle Rhodes, who had been one of the duo's background singers. Over the course of a decade, they released three albums: Double Tons of Fun (1993), Think Big! (1995), and Puttin' On The Hits (1999).
On September 16, 2004, Armstead died from heart failure in San Leandro, California.
Izora M. Rhodes was born on July 6, 1942, in Houston, Texas. She moved to San Francisco, California with her family when she was a child. At the young age of four, she began playing piano and later began singing at age eight. Rhodes eventually became the lead vocalist and pianist of San Francisco Inspirational Choir. Rhodes studied classical music at San Francisco Conservatory. She modeled herself after her favorite singers Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward.
By 1975, Rhodes had a total of seven children, six boys and a girl, that she raised as a single parent. To support her children, Rhodes worked as a bartender and a nurse assistant. In addition, Rhodes also worked as a piano and vocal teacher. In 1976, Rhodes married a new husband and changed her last name to Armstead. According to the autobiography book The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco written by Joshua Gamson, she had a total of eleven children (four of which are allegedly step-children) with then-new husband [Armstead]. Now Izora Armstead, she eventually landed in a short-lived gospel group called N.O.W. (News of the World), which would include neighborhood friend Martha Wash.
1976–1981: Sylvester and Two Tons O' FunEdit
In February 1976, friend Martha Wash auditioned as a backup singer before American singer-songwriter Sylvester and his manager Brent Thomson. Impressed with her vocal performance, Sylvester inquired if she had another large black friend who could sing, after which she introduced him to Izora Rhodes. Although he referred to them simply as "the girls", Wash and Rhodes formed a musical duo called Two Tons O' Fun (sometimes referred to as "The Two Tons"). Two Tons O' Fun debuted as Sylvester's backing vocalists on his self-titled third album Sylvester, released in 1977. The duo sang backup vocals on the album's singles "Down, Down, Down" and "Over and Over", which charted at number eighteen on the Billboard Dance chart. In 1978, Sylvester released his fourth album Step II, which also featured The Two Tons' background vocals throughout the album. "Dance (Disco Heat)", the album's lead single which featured The Tons, peaked at number one on Billboard Dance chart and became their first number-one single on that chart. In 1979, Two Tons O' Fun sang background on Sylvester's live album Living Proof. Later that year, the duo secured their own record deal with Fantasy Records.
On January 24, 1980, the duo released their debut self-titled album Two Tons of Fun. The album spawned two top-five dance singles: "Earth Can Be Just Like Heaven" and "I Got the Feeling". Their second album Backatcha was released later that year. The album spawned a single "I Depend On You" that peaked at number seventy-two on the Dance chart.
1982–1988: The Weather GirlsEdit
In September 1982, the duo released their single "It's Raining Men". The song became their biggest hit, peaking at number one on the Dance chart and number forty-six on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Following the success of the song, Two Tons o Fun changed their group name to The Weather Girls. On January 22, 1983, they released their third album Success. The album's titled-track "Success" was released as the second single and peaked at number eighty-nine on the R&B chart. In 1985, The Weather Girls released their fourth album Big Girls Don't Cry. In 1988, The Weather Girls released their self-titled fourth album The Weather Girls, the final album featuring Armstead and Wash. Shortly after the release of the album, The Weather Girls were dropped from Columbia and soon disbanded to pursue solo careers.
1989–1991: Solo careerEdit
Following the disbandment of The Weather Girls, Armstead pursued a brief solo career. She began touring as a solo artist, performing songs from The Weather Girls. In 1991, she released a single "Don't Let Love Slip Away".
1991–2004: Reformation of The Weather GirlsEdit
After a three-year hiatus and Wash pursuing her solo career, Armstead reformed The Weather Girls with her daughter Dynelle Rhodes and relocated to Germany in 1991. Their first album together Double Tons of Fun was released in 1993. The album's lead single "Can You Feel It" peaked at number two Billboard's Dance chart. The song also peaked at number 75 on Germany's music chart, their second single to enter that chart since "It's Raining Men". While touring the club circuit, the album's third single "We Shall All Be Free" peaked at number 80 on Germany's music chart. Their follow-up album Think Big! was released in December 1995. The album saw Armstead's contribution as a songwriter and penning several songs, including the album's third single "The Sound of Sex (Ooh Gitchie O-La-La-Ay)" which was written with her daughter. The album also contained a cover version of Sylvester's 1979 disco hit "Stars", recorded as a duet with Scottish pop singer Jimmy Somerville.
In 1999, The Weather Girls released eighth studio album Puttin' On The Hits which contained a collection of covered disco songs. 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". Overall, the group finished in thirteenth place.
Final years and deathEdit
Armstead's final recording was the single "Big Brown Girl" with The Weather Girls, released in 2004. In August 2004, Armstead returned to the Bay Area to undergo treatment for heart-related problems. In mid-September 2004, Armstead was checked in the San Leandro Hospital, after her condition deteriorated. On September 16, 2004, Armstead died from heart failure at the age of 62 in 2004 in San Leandro, California. She was survived by her seven children. Her funeral was held at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in San Francisco, California. She was laid to rest in Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.
As of 2004, Armstead's voice has collectively accumulated a total of three number-one dance singles: "Dance (Disco Heat)" (1978) and "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" (1978) with Sylvester; and "It's Raining Men" with The Weather Girls. Her single "It's Raining Men" was ranked the song at thirty-five on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Dance Songs in 2000, and also at thirty-five in their 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s in 2009. Armstead's daughter Dynelle Rhodes received the rights to The Weather Girls name. Rhodes added a then-new member Ingrid Arthur to The Weather Girls and began performing as a tribute to Armstead. The Weather Girls' album "Totally Wild" (2005) was dedicated to Armstead. In 2012, Rhodes replaced Ingrid Arthur with Dorrey Lin Lyles.
On September 14, 2014, Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical, a Broadway musical about Sylvester, debuted in New York City. Armstead's likeness was featured in the production and she was portrayed by actress Anastacia McCleskey.
- 1991: "Don't Let Love Slip Away"
- Izora Redman | Overview. All Music Guide. Retrieved on March 31, 2019
- Izora Redman-Armstead | Overview. All Music Guide. Retrieved on March 31, 2019
- Black, Sean (January 16, 2012). "Favorable Forecast". A&U Magazine. Archived from the original on May 21, 2012.
- The Weather Girls. Encyclopedia. Retrieved on March 31, 2019
- Published by Macmillan. (2005). The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco. Joshua Gamson, Pages 115–118. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=LwIGcuy_xxMC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Martha Wash Cover Story. America's AIDS Magazine. Retrieved on January 28, 2019
- Gamson 2005, pp. 115–118 sfnm error: no target: CITEREFGamson2005 (help); Davis 2015, pp. 10–11 sfnm error: no target: CITEREFDavis2015 (help).
- Sylvester | Billboard Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved on February 1, 2019
- Two Tons of Fun | Billboard Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved on February 1, 2019
- The Weather Girls | Billboard Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved on February 1, 2019
- Disco Diva Izora Armstead Dies. Billboard. Retrieved on March 31, 2019
- Izora Armstead, a Singer in the Weather Girls Duo, Dies. New York Times. Retrieved on March 31, 2019
- Izora Rhodes-Armstead (1942–2004) – Find A Grave Memorial. Find A Grave. Retrieved on March 31, 2019
- "Rock on the Net: VH1: 100 Greatest Dance Songs". Rock on the Net. Retrieved on February 5, 2019
- Ali, Rahsheeda (May 2, 2013). "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s". VH1. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
- Wanna Funk Off-Broadway? Anthony Wayne Will Co-Direct, Write & Star in Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical. Broadway. Retrieved on March 31, 2019