In a career that has spanned 30 years, Marcia Hines has had many titles - Queen of Pop, an Australian pop legend, diva extraordinaire. "I tell people who I am and they say 'No you're not. She's really old'," the eternally youthful Ms Hines laughs.
While Marcia's never really gone away, her latest album, "Time of Our Lives" does mark a recording return after a four year break. Her last album "Right Here and Now" came after an eight year hiatus, but according to Marcia if you're looking for a Marcia Hines comeback album then "Time of Our Lives" is definitely the one. "I keep coming back don't I," she comments, "but I really feel 'Time of Our Lives' is the best representation of my work that I've heard."
After eighteen months scouring the world for the best tracks possible, pouring over a thousand tapes, Marcia and executive producers The Rockmelons came up with ten killer tracks that really let Marcia rip. It's all there - every mood, every emotion, every vocal dynamic. It's vintage Marcia but it's also completely fresh and up to date. From the groovy reggae based "Woo Me", penned by the Rockies as a nod to Marcia's West Indian heritage to slam dunk dance tracks "Which Way is Up" and an updated version of a Marcia standard "I Got the Music in Me" produced in Chicago by hot dance re-mixer Mark Picciotti. Then there are the big ballads, two of which are penned by the best in the business, Diane Warren (think Cher, Celine Dion, Bon Jovi). Marcia not only tears at the heartstrings, she rips them to shreds on these Warren originals, "When You Cry" and "Making My Way". A highlight of the album is undoubtedly a haunting version of the theme from "Valley of the Dolls", which was first recorded by Dionne Warwick. "It was a song I really wanted to sing but it's a really hard song to sing," says Marcia. "The day I cam home from recording it I thought I could die now I was so happy with the vocal."
After finishing the ten tracks for the album, Marcia went to London to record a blast of 80's nostalgia with "Flashdance (What a Feeling!)" which was released as the first single. The clubs are already stirring with the remake as well as promo only 12" remixes of "I Got the Music in Me" and in the UK the buzz is getting louder with "I Got the Music in Me" appearing on the prestigious Miss Money Penny dance compilation.
"It was important to let Marcia be Marcia," is how The Rockmelons' Brian Jones described "Time of Our Lives", and I think that's what we've achieved on this album"
Let's face it, Marcia Hines being Marcia Hines is what's endeared her to the Australian public for so long, starting back in 1970 when she arrived as a wide eyed 16 year old to take part in the rock musical "Hair". In her hometown of Boston, Marcia began singing as a young child and by the age of nine had made her first public appearance in a church choir. She then spent a short stint at the city's Conservatorium of Music. After seeing one of her friends, future disco diva Donna Summer, win a role in a German production of the musical "Hair", the young singer put aside a curious childhood ambition of being a cosmetic mortician, and decided to audition for the Australian production. She won the part and twelve days later was on her way to a country she knew nothing about.
"I didn't know where it was. I didn't even know what language they spoke", Hines says. She also didn't know that she was pregnant at the time. "If I new I was pregnant I would never have come here. I would have stayed home."
Her one and only daughter Deni arrived five months later. Marcia worked right up to the time of her birth and nine days later was back on stage. Marcia thought she would be in Australia for six months but her distinctive style assured there was plenty of work waiting once she had left the stage of "Hair", and she decided to stay, becoming in 1973 the world's first black Mary Magdalene in the Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
But it still wasn't easy being a black person in a sea of white faces. "I looked different with this huge Afro and hippy clothes, but I thought, if they want to stare well here I am" she says with her typical no nonsense defiance. "You don't look at somebody you don't like."
Being an outsider never really bothered Marcia. "In Boston we were different because my family was Jamaican, not Afro American, and I attended an all white school," she says. "But I was raised as an individual not as a black person."
In an era of white pub rock, being different could only prove to be an asset in a country starved of anything that resembled class or soul. "I've never deluded myself about that," Marcia says frankly. "A lot of the reason behind my success was that I was a black singer who came along at a time that was pretty unusual. We played on that. We always made sure I stood out from the crowd as much as possible."
When she came to make her recording debut in 1975 with a sizzling version of "Fire and Rain", Marcia's solid gold recording path was set - seven multi-platinum albums and seven Top 10 singles - "Ooh Child", "Your Love still Brings Me to My Knees", to name just a few, all showcasing Marcia's blistering vocals in sophisticated lush productions. They made her the biggest selling artist Australia ever had. In that time Marcia also toured overseas with the Daly Wilson Big Band, had her own national TV show and was crowned Queen of Pop three times.
By the mid 80's the hits began to dry up and rather than flog an all too familiar formula Marcia decided instead to take a step back and pursue other musical interests. She returned to the theatre in the productions "Big River", "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "Jerry's Girls". "I knew I could keep touring the clubs churning out the same old material but I didn't want that. I didn't want to become a nostalgic act," she says.
There seems to be a permanent spotlight on Marcia whether offstage or on. People are drawn to her smile, to her bold personality and her striking appearance, and these days Marcia is looking better than ever - her well-toned muscular body slipping easily into skin-tight clothes.
But Marcia has had to learn to look after herself. Her commitment to fitness came after receiving a severe reality check in 1986 when she fell over in her kitchen and was rushed to hospital. She was diagnosed with diabetes and sentenced to a life of daily insulin injections and careful monitoring of her diet.
"I was in hospital next to this girl who had had two major operations. She looked over to me and said, 'You know we could be really sick couldn't we?' and that brought me down to earth. I realized it wasn't a big deal. It's something that can be treated," she says philosophically. "I don't believe life dishes out more than you are able to deal with."
A new record deal with Warner Bros in 1994 saw the circle turn back to recording and touring. The album "Right Here and Now" was released in 1995 featuring two Top 20 singles, the album went gold reaching Top 10 status.
The renaissance has continued and prospered with the 1999 release of her current album and the Top 10 single "Time of Our Lives."
The success continues into the millennium with the Australian Olympic Team choosing Marcia's new single "Rise" as their official team song. "I am incredibly honored and inspired that 'Rise' has been chosen by the athletes as the official Australian Olympic Team Song," Marcia says. "The athletes are the true heroes of the Olympic Games and I hope this song promotes inspiration and success for our elite athletes during the Games."
Maybe you could call Marcia Hines a survivor but it's more a case of just being - being your best at all times. Whether it is taking center stage at the Fox Studios Australia Opening, the Stadium Australian Opening or her sell-out concert tours throughout Australia and New Zealand, there is no doubt that Marcia Hines will continue to remain at the peak of her recording and performing career rewarding old fans and embracing new ones.