Thunder is the most appropriate word to describe this powerhouse singer. Let's add lightning and thunder to that! She's tall, strong, gifted, and determined to never give up. Having gone through so much, Margo has persevered through every trial that has come her way. Through faith in God, she has come through them like a champion.
Not only is Margo a champion in her personal life, but she also has quite an accomplished past. In her earlier years of life, she formed a female group entitled Lady Soul, which recorded a song for the Sister Act soundtrack entitled "If My Sisters in Trouble.". Along with numerous other successful hit songs, now Margo is recording as a solo act. Capitol Records signed Thunder in the 1970s, and they released "Expressway to Your Heart". I had the awesome opportunity to speak with this diamond in the rough. Here's what she shared.
Hi Margo, how are you today? I'm doing well, how are you?
I'm wonderful, thank you! How's the weather where you are? I'm in California, so I'm OK.
That's a good thing. Yes it is.
You know Margo, I was listening to some of your music from back in the day, and I love it! Thank you
My husband who is a British DJ and radio presenter also loves your music. That's great! Thank you!
You’re welcome. So, Margo, is Margo Thunder your birth name? That's so funny because everybody says that. (laughs) No, my birth name is Margaret Furtado.
It's such a unique name. Where did your surname originate from? I'm Portuguese.
Awesome, it's beautiful! Why did you change your name? Thank you. Many people ask me about my name. I changed my name at age 11 when I signed with Capitol Records.
OK. So, when I came in with the name Furtado, they said, “we have to change that name because no one will ever remember that name. Because my first name was Margaret, they shortened it to Margo.
Did you like it? I thought it was pretty cool. My first record deal with Capitol Records was when I was 11 however, I was rather tall. Funny thing is, I'm the shortest of my 9 siblings. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to six feet.
Wow, that's tall! Definitely. Initially, when trying to come up with a name for me, they thought of calling me Margo Hightower.
Oh no! Then they thought, she’s 11 years old, but she doesn't sound like a kid so maybe we can call her Margo McCoy? They still couldn’t come up with the right name for me, so they decided to just have me work on music and they figured the name would come later.
Tell me about your first experience recording professionally. I’m originally from Boston, but I recorded in a studio in Los Angeles, CA. The first night that I recorded in LA, it rained. Back in the 70’s, it didn’t rain as it does now, so it was quite shocking. As soon as I hit the first note, a lightning bolt struck the building, knocking out the lights. So that's how my name came to be. Margo Thunder.
Are you kidding me? That is awesome! Has it always been a childhood dream of yours to become a singer? Because I didn't know I could sing, I never thought that I would be a singer. Aretha Franklin became my inspiration for wanting to become a professional singer. Her sound inspired me to follow in her footsteps. While singing a song by Aretha Franklin, my mother heard me. She asked me, “Is that you? I said yes.
Did you sing in talent shows? Yes, my mother had to trick me into being involved in talent shows. Because I was shy, I didn't want to do it. I ended up winning three talent competitions and the prize was that I would have the opportunity to go to the Apollo Theater. I went and of all people, Aretha Franklin was the headlining act. Knowing how much I loved her, they snuck me up so I could see her. After this experience, I realized that singing for a living was my calling and I haven't looked back since.
That's amazing! Tell me about the first album you released with Capitol Records? I signed with Capitol Records when I was 11. "Soul of a Woman" was my first album. That was in 1974. I also released a cover version of a song called “Expressway to Your Heart.”
Such a grown-up world for a little girl to enter. Because I was so young, I had little knowledge of the music industry. However, I had mentors like Betty Wright, who recorded a song called "Clean Up Woman and Tonight is the Night". Her brother played in my band in Boston, but I hadn't put the two together. It wasn’t until I was at rehearsal when I asked my band to learn a new song by a lady named Betty Wright. One of my band members told me that he already knew the song. I asked him how he knew this? He said that Betty Wright was his sister. His name was “Charles Wright.” Then it all made sense (laughs). But it was hilarious when Betty and I met. She said, “my brother played in your band. All those years I thought he was lying to me, but it was true. Betty Wright was his sister. So, I recorded those records, and they did what they did.
Being so young, how did you navigate school and the music industry? Yes, because I was so young, I attended a music high school in Boston. I didn't want to lag in my education. That was from the 70s to the 80s. While I was at school, I met two girls. The band later changed their name to 9.9, signed with RCA Records, and had a big hit record in the 80s called "All of Me For All of You."
I remember that song. I loved it! At what age did that song come out? I was 21 years old. You know Gina, for me, music was just in my blood. One thing I told myself was, if music ever became my job, I wouldn't do it since I wanted it to be fun. Music has always been a fun thing for me.
What happened to the 9.9 group? 9.9 disbanded.
Why? Well, both girls wanted to sing gospel music. As a result, I said to myself, maybe it's time to do something else. A number of people began asking me when I would release another project. So, I formed a new group called "Lady Soul." We had a song on the first Sister at Movie called, "My Sister's in Trouble." It went gold platinum.
That’s awesome! What an accomplishment! Wow! Gold Platinum! Thank you.
You're welcome. So, you are well on your way from there. Not quite, as you know, the music industry can be a tricky beast. Things are not always as they appear. You can have the appearance of success and fame, but you're still struggling. The average public doesn't see that. You have all this popularity but you're still struggling.
What happened to Lady Soul? Lady Soul disbanded also. I became tired of the woes of the industry, so I moved away from it and became a vocal coach.
I'm so proud of you because you didn't let the industry keep you from moving forward in pursuing other aspects of who you are as a person. God gives us multiple responsibilities when we're born on this earth. Although singing is part of your identity, there are other facets of you as well. This earth is a place of discovery. This world is full of adventures. By thinking God has only given us one task, we limit ourselves. I believe we have many missions in life. Being a vocal coach is just fulfilling an additional purpose God has given you. Every purpose is equally significant. As a result of this placement, each of them is placed into an important person, a woman who was created by God in his very own image.
Thank you Gina.
You’re welcome. Tell me about your wonderful experience as a vocal coach. I don't know if you’ve heard of a singer by the name of “JoJo?”
Absolutely. I think Jojo is phenomenal! She does a duet with a guy by the name of PJ Morton called “Say So.” I love it! Yes, she came to me in Boston. I wrote some songs and she got signed to Blackground Records. Well, she was one of my vocal students. So, I thought to myself, I've been coaching for so long, maybe I’ll just take a backseat and focus on developing other people and working with other artists. So, that’s what I did. After my mother passed, I moved away from Boston to LA.
Did you continue vocal coaching in LA? Yes. I even worked with actors and actresses helping them prepare for various singing roles.
How were you able to move out to California and still do what you were doing? I kept my music industry connections. Throughout the transition, 9.9 and I remained in contact. We shared the same management with another artist named, “Richard Dimples Fields.”
Yes, I remember him. Yes. We started off as his background singers.
OK, yeah. That's how the 9.9 group came about because we were his backup singers. He wanted to record us. I worked with Maurice Star when I recorded with Lady Soul. Maurice Star was also the producer for New Edition and The New Kids on The Block. He produced the Lady Soul group. So, after the Maurice Star thing blew up, I said I'm done. I planned to continue working as a vocal instructor. I thought to myself, maybe it's not meant for me to be in the spotlight anymore. So, the woman that managed Richard Dimple fields and the 9.9 group, whose name was Belinda Wilson, and her brother, Ken Wilson, who worked for Clive Davis and Alicia Keys, aided me with some projects they were involved with.
I'm sure being around the industry again inspired you to want to sing again. Well, Ken kept telling me that if I sang that song, it would bring me back. At that point, I wasn't interested in being an artist anymore. But he continued to press me on the issue until I caved in. I recorded a solo album in 2010 called, R&B 101.
Did that album have a concept? We've gotten so far away from traditional R&B that I wanted to bring it back to the basics. The entire album was about telling stories. That's what R&B music is about. Storytelling. It's not always about sex. So, I was inspired to write about that. After finishing the album, I recorded a remake of Feel the Fire by Peabo Bryson. I was told by "Peabo" Bryson that my rendition of this song was the best ever heard by him.
Wow, that's awesome! Did you write the songs on your album? All the songs on the album were written by me except for Feel the Fire and Mistreated. As the song says, you can't expect anyone else to love you if you don't love yourself.
That's so true. I felt that, if I were to come back, I wanted to convey a powerful message, as this is my commitment. Although the album didn't take me where I wanted to go, it was great to know that people are still interested in hearing me.
Yes, so what happened from there? One day while sitting at home, I met a guy on Facebook by the name of Big Rob. Although he told me that I was one of the best R&B singers, I was like, yeah, OK. At that point, I needed a real job so that I could pay my bills. You know, I even worked on a movie lot for 13 years. But back to Rob. He continued to wear me down until I finally gave him my phone number. He called me and we talked about what I contributed to music, and so forth. So, I don't hear from him for months. Then I get this call from him saying, “God told me I'm supposed to write your next hit record.”
Even though I didn't know him, I told him that if God told him that, I would come. So, I went to Ohio, and we recorded 2 songs. The first one was a southern soul song called, Paper or Plastic. That came out last year, in 2021. My fans were excited to see that I was back. However, I have never gone anywhere. I've been here. Regardless of whether it's a big success or not, I've released a record every decade. So, paper or plastic took off in the southern soul market.
Have you ever had the opportunity to perform that song? Yes, I toured with him and got the chance to see another side of the music industry. The untapped side of music that many people are still singing, and still want to hear. Whether you call it Southern soul or R&B, it’s good music. I sang Aretha Franklin and Al Green songs. It wasn't southern soul to us, it was just soul music.
He also wrote a Christmas song for me. When I first heard it, it made me cry and I'm not a person that cries. While recording the song, I cried. You can even hear it halfway in the recording. The song brought out so much emotion. It was a healing song for me because of my mother's death that I never got over. I never had time to really grieve her death. I'm one of her nine children.
Did you film a music video for the song? Yes. We did put a video together and it became a source of healing for me. I recorded a video and put it on Facebook. I asked people if they had a loved one that they lost through the pandemic or other causes, to send me a picture, and I would represent them in my video. It felt so good to do that.
What a beautiful, compassionate heart you have. Seeing what's out there today and how the sound of music has changed; Having a more mature sound, how did you prepare yourself mentally for those changes? Well, I look at it like this. There's something out there for everyone. In my case, I have always focused on my accomplishments. It doesn't matter if they are young or old, if I give them good music, they will accept it. My belief was that these young kids wouldn't be able to get into me. Nonetheless, when I would perform, I noticed that young people would approach me more often than older ones wondering how I did what I did. I love working with younger artists because I vocal coach so many of them. But I would never work with anybody that wanted to be autotuned. I would tell them, oh no, if you're going to work with me, you're going to work because it's not just your name on the project, it's mine too. If you're going to put my name down as the person who vocal coached you, that’s not how I do things.
Since I'm 62, it's more faith-based because I'm grateful that I'm still able to do what I do. God gave me this gift.
Yes, very well said. There's something that He wants me to relate to these younger people that are coming out. I just want to give people good music. My new single, “What Do You Do When Love Don’t Love You” talks about, what do you do in various situations. It doesn't always have to be about a male and female relationship. It could be between a father and his son, or a mother and her daughter. What do you do when love doesn't love you especially when you've given it everything that you can? You keep pushing on, that’s what you do.
Yes. Do you have upcoming shows? I’m working on that now. I was home the entire summer. Before that, I was on the road for almost six months. I did a lot of shows down South, and all over the place but now I’m trying to promote my new single and preparing to shoot my new music video. I keep my fans updated on my social media pages. But I'm looking forward to getting back on stage and doing what I love the most, which is singing.
What advice do you have for new artists? Get a mentor to help you navigate through the music industry. I had that and it helped me. Also, I would say, learn your craft. You must have the ability to get out on stage and perform live whether you have musical backing or not. What happens if a tape breaks and you have to sing it live? You should still be able to give the people what they need. So, learn your craft.
Well said! Margo, it has been a pleasure and a blessing speaking with you and I’m glad that you love God! That’s so awesome! May God's blessings be upon you and your life. Thank you.
Follow Margo Thunder online:
Facebook/MargoThunder and Instagram/ MargoThunderhouse7
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