At the tender age of 13, Margo Thunder won the hearts of soul-music lovers worldwide with her powerful, Aretha Franklin-inspired delivery. But it was her own unique styling that made “Soul of a Woman” and “Expressway to Your Heart” the anthems that they have since become. As lead singer of 9.9, she made further history with “All of Me, All of You,” a classic slice of ’80s R&B that she co-wrote. Fast-forward to 2011: Margo has gone through a number of personal trials and revelations that have led her to release her debut solo album, R&B 101. The single, “Mistreated,” has already garnered much attention through its iTunes release, and the surprising follow-up, “Did You Wrong,” looks primed to do the same. She talks with Justin Kantor about her journey.
You were born and raised in Boston. We have a connection there. I’m a graduate of Berklee College of Music. I studied voice there with Donna McElroy and Walter Beasley.
Walter was the saxophone player in my backing group, the Heartbeat Band. Freddie Fox, who’s married to Evelyn “Champagne” King now, was also in there. The whole band was comprised of Berklee musicians. There are so many Berklee alumni that I’ve worked with through the years. It’s almost like I’ve been going there since I was a little girl. Basically, they should just give me an honorary degree! [laughs]
You started singing when you were two years old.
I started singing before I could talk! My mother would tell me as I got older that anything I heard I could sing back — in perfect pitch. But I really never wanted to be a singer; it was just something fun to do. But then, Aretha Franklin was my hero. She was the headliner when I won a talent show at the Apollo Theater. I was nine years old. When I got to see her, that was it. I was hooked.
How did you end up going to the Apollo to take part in that contest?
Well, they used to hold talent shows around Boston. If you won the talent show three times, then you got to go to the Apollo. So, my mother used to go to these talent shows, and she would come back and tell me about it, and I’m going, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” She was like, “You don’t want to go and sign up for the talent shows ’cause you’re afraid all those other little kids are gonna kick your butt.” I said, “Oh, you know what? Sign me up.” That was it!