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
"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