Vicki Sue Robinson turned the disco and pop music world upside down with her rousing 1976 Top Ten Pop smash "Turn the Beat Around." A strong, vibrant vocalist, Robinson's records were among some of the best produced and arranged '70s disco releases, with solid beats built on solid songs. Born in Harlem in 1955, Robinson's birth was the result of a union between a black actor and white folk singer. Her professional debut was at the Philadelphia Folk Festival when she was six. Her eclectic heritage was also reflected in her wide-ranging love of different types of music performers.
As a teenager, Robinson appeared in the Broadway hit Hair, and having been discovered by Robert Stigwood (RSO Records, Bee Gees), she joined the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. Her varied career included stints as a model, actor, waitress, and recording with Japanese artists Sadistic Mika Band and Itsuru Shimoda, as well as a job with Ms. magazine.
Signed to RCA Records in the mid-'70s by producer Warren Schatz, she released four albums for the label: Never Gonna Let You Go (1976), Vicki Sue Robinson (1976), Half & Half (1978), and Movin' On (1979). "Turn the Beat Around," written by Pete and Gerald Jackson, reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in summer 1976, earning Robinson a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Female. Her other favorites include her cover of Bobby Womack's "Daylight" and "Hold Tight."
Decades after her music career peaked, Robinson starred in her own 1999 off-Broadway play, Vicki Sue Robinson: Behind the Beat. The play was a continuation of her popular, enticing cabaret show. On April 27, 2000, at the age of 46, Robinson died of cancer at her Wilton, Connecticut home. ~ Ed Hogan