The Real Essra Mohawk
Morning coffee, finishing up prayers, barking dogs, attending to guests unable to get in the house, and other daily morning occurrences; Woodstock Story had the privilege of catching up with musician Essra Mohawk in real life.
Former Mothers of Invention member and successful solo artist Essra Mohawk is commonly regarded as leading the way in progressive rock and pop music. She is a woman who has never lost sight of what the 1960s meant to her as well as the world. Essra Mohawk continues to embrace the spirit of the era offers true insight into what it meant to be a part of a time of living close to the environment and human nature. Woodstock Story got a chance to speak with the flowering musician who will headline the Woodstock 1969 tribute Woodfest ’09 which will take place in Oklahoma on August 14th to 16th. (Essra plays on the 15th.)
Society, ideals, and music have undergone a great deal of change since Woodstock 1969. Mohawk believes that the 1960s is not a testament to what was, but rather what will come to be.
“The youth of today don’t have the same environment around them to step into. I really believe that the 60s was a preview of the coming of a golden age. The upcoming years will bring either the dawn of our golden age or the end of civilization” said Mohawk.
Aptly nicknamed ‘The Secret Diva’ Essra Mohawk has been a part of music since age 16. Having been a part of Frank Zappa’s band, writing hits for various artists including Cyndi Lauper, her songs have been recorded by Tina Turner, Lorrie Morgan and the Shangri-Las, solidifying her place in music history and continuing to further the art. Passionate about what she does, consider her an independent artist who has been at it for decades.
“As a musician, I can say that the pay has not gone up, but the cost of living has. I don’t know how they expect us to live. My music is what it is through thick and thin; it comes from my core,” said Mohawk.
She was scheduled to play at the original Woodstock festival likely, according to her by being a part of Michael Lang’s inner circle of friends. She got to witness the conception and eventual realization of the legendary festival.
“It was Michael Lang’s dream. He had help, but I know it was Michael who came up with the idea. I was privileged to witness him follow his dream and watch it manifest,” said Mohawk.
Unfortunately, she was unable to perform at Woodstock 1969 after the car she was in, which was following Lang’s car to the festival lost it in traffic. Instead of following Lang as he turned off the road towards the heliport, Essra’s manager missed the turn and drove all the way to the festival with the masses, barely arriving before the end of the last act on Friday evening, Joan Baez. That was the day Essra was scheduled to play but arrived too late.
“Richie Havens and I traded karma, he was not scheduled to play and I was,” said Mohawk.
“Richie took the place of John Sebastian (of the Lovin’Spoonful) who was wandering through the festival mixing with the people. Does the world know what a great artist John Sebastian is? They would had he gotten to play that day.”
Essra will get her chance to capture the spirit of Woodstock 1969 at Woodfest ’09 where she will headline. The peaceful and accommodating event is one of many Woodstock tributes that will bring back the 60s mentality and offer some peace in an otherwise hectic world.
“I bring it full circle because I didn’t get to play the original Woodstock. Music is the environment that pulls people together. They are isolated behind their computer screens without true social interaction. These festivals provide something that is a real human need.” said Mohawk.
These tributes and festivals are perhaps the type of events that will again turn the tide of music for the better. The hope is that many of these festivals will begin held in higher frequency after the summer of love is revisited. She sees hope in independent artists working without using the music industry as the middle man, but voices her insights about the state of current music.
“When Madonna’s “True Love” began climbing the charts and Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” began sliding down, it marked a shift in the music industry. People cared more about their looks and posturing than the music. MTV played a part in that as well; music is invisible, videos should enhance music instead of getting in the way, but this is all history. I believe the pendulum is swinging back towards substance and quality in music,” said Mohawk.
Listeners can expect a new album from ‘The Secret Diva’ in 2010 as she draws from a pool of 29 unrecorded tracks. Don’t miss Essra Mohawk as she headlines Woodfest ’09 and not only captures the sound of past music, but offers listeners a glimpse in what she hopes will be the dawn of our golden age.
“The 1960s, for that brief time is not just history, it is a preview of the golden age,” said Mohawk.