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Essra Mohawk

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Essra Mohawk has change of luck with Lauper hit "Change of Heart," by John Braheny1986 by John Braheny

Things were not going well for Essra Mohawk. A tour had just fallen through, her cat, "Zircon, the Wonder Cat," died on Mother's Day and she was down to her last $25. This unfortunate series of events may have put someone with a negative attitude over the edge. But as a Buddhist she believes that every loss is followed by a greater gain. Though she couldn't imagine what could be better than "Zircon, the Wonder Cat," she had faith that something good would happen.

Her friend, Bonnie Ross, is a Red Cross nurse who had organized a Rockmobile (a bloodmobile) in Philadelphia's rock community about three years ago, just before Cyndi Lauper's first album was released. The three had met on that project and Bonnie had stayed in touch with both women. For the next three years Bonnie kept asking Essra for a tape to play for Cyndi. Now she was saying, "You've got to give me a tape for Cyndi. They need one more song for the album."

"Bonnie lives at the other end of town from me so we met at midnight in Center City. I handed her the tape and she chose "Change of Heart;' so we can thank Bonnie for pickin' the tune.

"Everything that happened, happened real fast because I gave the tape to Bonnie and within a week, I heard from Cyndi. That was on a Thursday and I thought, well, I wouldn't hear anything else at least until Monday, but Saturday, I got a call from Lenny Petze (co-producer with Lauper) from the Power Station to get the lyrics. They were already recording it! So, by Monday, I was talking to lawyers. The business of it all came together in only a week.

"Cyndi did a rewrite on it. They called and asked if it was okay with me for Cyndi to change a few words and I said, 'Whatever makes her comfortable to sing the tune.' So, in the last verse, the first two lines: Blind leading blind, never to hear the laughter, Search through time, nothing reveals the answer - that's Cyndi's. The rest is mine except for a word here and there where she changed an "I" to a "we" or things like that. In the second verse, I had, Days go by, filled with a lifetime's hunger I would fly back to when I was younger. It's a more personal lyric. And she made it a little more universal, Days go by, leaving me with a hunger. I would fly back to when we were younger. That makes it a little more romantic.

"I was a little upset at first because I really like my lyric, but one night I was driving home, listening to the radio and I was listening to her lyrics because sometimes it really takes some time to get used to the change, and I really appreciated them for themselves, for what they meant and I had no problem with it. Probably, she wasn't filled with as much hunger as I was! (Laughs.)"

Essra has been writing and working as a performer for many years and is certainly no stranger to the unpredictability of the business. "My life's really strange because I started out pop and I had major deals when I was 16 but never any promotion, never any follow through, never any management, you know? That's a great start (sarcastically)." Following up on her success is important to her now. She auditioned for the Lauper tour but was glad she didn't make it. "It really was the best time for me to do my own business and had I gone I wouldn't have been able to follow through for myself." The follow-through is paying off. She just got a cover with Kim Carnes, which will be out in May called "Shaping the Night," co-written with Duke Williams, also originally from Philly but now living in LA. She feels she'll be moving back to L.A. soon. She lived here for about five years before returning to Philly in '82.

Regardless of where she lives she continues to keep the faith. "You never know where it's going to come from. You just have to know it's going to come. People think if something doesn't happen in a long enough time, they figure it's not going to. But things do happen after a long time. In most people's lives who make it, it didn't happen right away. It's really kind of incredible to break through with this song, with the opening words of, "Here I am, just like I said I would be!"

Editor's Note: Special thanks to Peer/Southern professional manager Peter Newman for getting us in touch with Essra Mohawk.



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