Back in the 1980s, there was such as diverse mix of music that topped charts from Rock to Pop, to Dance. Amidst it all, there was a new electronic dance genre that emerged on the scene dubbed as Freestyle. A hot, fresh form of music, one of the earliest stars to rise was native New York Singer-Songwriter Shannon with her 1983 hits “Let the Music Play” and “Give Me Tonight.” An important chapter in the story of Freestyle’s history, Shannon arguably paved the way for many other, thus, is the undisputed Queen of Freestyle.
Sustaining herself through the years, Shannon has collaborated with many and continues to rock audiences all over the globe. Humble, wise, and full of life, she recently sat down to talk about her experiences, helping support the LGBTQ community, plus a lot more.
Cryptic Rock – A professional singer-songwriter for nearly four decades, you attained a massive amount of success with hits such as “Let the Music Play.” Briefly tell us, how would you describe your journey in music to this point?
Shannon – Like life – up and down. Good things happen, bad things happen, it’s unpredictable. It’s like life, and only the strong survive.
Cryptic Rock – Very true. You released the single “Let the Music Play” back in 1983 and it became a massive Dance hit that is perhaps one of the biggest of the decade. It would follow with your debut album of the same name in early 1984, which featured another big hit with “Give Me Tonight.”Also earning you a Grammy nomination, what was that time like for you?
Shannon – “Let the Music Play” came out in June of 1983. At that time, I was very young, and I say that because there is so much stuff out there right now. It’s a funny thing about truth, sometimes people want to push it in the background and they like to create other stories; fairy tale is a beautiful thing. However, when you talk about what life is like for real, then you deal with both, the good and the bad. In 1983 I was very young, very ignorant, but very excited about making it in the business. Making it in the music business was something I always wanted; from the time I could speak, I loved singing! I was disappointed in a lot of ways in reference to the music business.
Cryptic Rock – Understandable. That is very unfortunate, but you have survived and sustained longevity. You regularly perform and you would continue to release new music into the early 2000s, with your last album being 2006’s A Beauty Returns. This in mind, do you have some new music on the horizon?
Shannon – Yes. I have toured from Europe to Africa, to Israel, to the Caribbeans. “Let the Music Play” was the debut song that took me all over the world and introduced me to many demographics. Because of that, today, I’m performing with everybody from Rap to Pop, to Rock-n-Roll artists. Sometimes people ask, “Why are you on the bill?” I’m always on the bill to make a transition to whatever demographic they are playing and bring it to another avenue. The ’80s were big and all the decade’s music was incredible.
I have released a lot of music through the years. I released music with Les Rythmes Digitales, Sash! in Germany, Sabrina Serlano in Italy, and Black Box did some mixes on some things as well. I have worked with so many people. I was even in Kuwait and Baghdad!
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like you have had a very diverse, fulfilling career that has helped you obtain a broad worldly view. What would you say are some of the most important things you have learned from your travels as a performer?
Shannon – I believe it’s to be humble, live from moment to moment, accept experiences and learn from them. There have been so many great people I’ve come across, like Stevie Wonder and Celine Dion, both of whom I have done some stuff with. You can always learn. When I got into the business I was very ignorant about a lot of things, but as I stayed in the business I learned to survive in the business. That is what you have to do – learn and make your mark.
I think I am making more of a mark today, even though the music was astronomical back then. I think today it is paying off because so many people remember the music, still enjoy it, and introduce it to their children. I’ve learned to sustain.
Cryptic Rock – That is a great outlook. As you said, your experience as an artist is much like life. You are now a part of a tremendous lineup of talent for the event Get In: Get Out! Magazine & Friends for The Ali Forney Center. This is a fundraiser benefiting the Ali Forney Center; an organization which helps homeless LGBTQ youth. How did you become involved with this event?
Shannon – I’ve always been very close to the LGBTQ community. The community has supported me for over 37 years, they are some of the best of fans! There is a lot of negativity right now in the community that people are experiencing with COVID-19. When I was asked to get involved, I said, “Definitely!” They are some of my biggest supporters.
Cryptic Rock – That is wonderful to hear. There is an encore presentation of the event on Friday, June 26th. What is your contribution to this event?
Shannon – I did a special recording at home. It’s a wonderful song, one to just give back. I wanted to hit the souls and hearts of people. When there is a life-changing event, it takes many people to come together. I urge everybody to go onto aliforneycenter.org and learn about what is happening. I say contribute whatever you can; whether it be money, if you have it, or time. There will be a special expanded encore presentation with added celebrities and performances that will stream via YouTube on Friday, June 26th at 8 PM EST.
Cryptic Rock – It is a stunning lineup of talent and it is all for a great cause. While many of us are fortunate to be safe at home during this pandemic, others are not as fortunate.
Shannon – Yes. It’s great people are getting involved. Sometimes it seems like we are all doing okay, but we don’t have the actual story. We have to support each other.
Cryptic Rock – Most certainly. As stated, there is a great list of talent involved with this too, so people need to check it out!
Shannon – Oh yea, we’re going to have fun too! We are going to have a wonderful time, so please be a part of it as well.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like a blast. There is just so much going on in the world today. We have this ongoing pandemic as well as the amplified issue of racism and injustice. What would be your words of encouragement to people right now?
Shannon – I say stand strong. I always say fight back and don’t follow, be a leader. Each one of us has to be a leader so the movement doesn’t stop. The movement has to continue. My grandmother used to say to me, “You have to stand for something. If you melt into what everyone else is doing, and stand for nothing, then you’re nothing.” You must stand for something, because if you stand for something you can make a change.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed, and it seems people are standing for something and uniting. Do you feel as a society we have made progress of being accepting of one another and diversity?
Shannon – I hate to say this, but I feel that humanity has not changed. The character is there with people. People are people. Sometimes people are just not nice and they don’t want to help. It’s all about righteousness, support, love, and helping someone to feel better. When you feel joy, that’s what it’s about! If I can feel joy and you can feel joy, my goodness, do you know what kind of world this could be?
If I could do something wonderful for somebody and help heal the nation, that’s what it’s about. It’s not about the evilness, and I see so much evilness in humans. To be honest, I’m a little disappointed in the human race, but for me, I stand on righteousness.
Cryptic Rock – Understood. Many of us are disappointed seeing how matters are unfolding in society. It is all about teaching acceptances and embracing diversity.
Shannon – Yes. Also, people need to be held accountable for wrongdoing. If you are not, you don’t learn anything. I hate to say that because I stand on righteousness. I want to love, I want to enjoy this beautiful world that the creator has given us.
Cryptic Rock – Let’s us hope for a better tomorrow. Many things are on pause right now due to COVID-19, but do you have any shows coming up?
Shannon – When the pandemic first happened, a lot of shows were postponed or cancelled, but we hope to have other shows added to the calendar when we can.