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Essra Mohawk: Inky Profile

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PERSONALITIES 1988, Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine



Essra Mohawk

A spiritual songwriter

PHILADELPHIAN ESSRA MOHAWK, WHOSE "Change of Heart" was last year's No. 3 hit single, sung by Cyndi Lauper, has written 300 songs. About 60 have been recorded and released. The rest lie in notebooks or are being considered by performers. "Songs are like children you want to do the best for each one," says Mohawk, originally Sandra Hurvitz, whose professional name came from her ex-husband's surname and her nickname "Essie." Recently, singer Fiona chose "Maybe It's Love," written by Mohawk and Mark Mangold, for her new album. Mohawk says Sheena Easton, Belinda Carlisle and Patti LaBelle are among those considering her songs.

Her background: "My parents wrote songs, and we all sang. When I was 12 or 13, my parents got me a piano. At 14, I started writing and never stopped. I had my first album deal at 15. I just kept filling up books." At 19, she met Frank Zappa, in New York, and he asked her to play with the Mothers of Invention, which she did for more than a year. A singer and keyboardist, she has recorded six solo albums.

Her spiritual side: She is a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist, a member of the sect whose chant means "I devote my life to the mystic world of cause and effect through sound." She began chanting nine years ago, "when I had to change my karma... I've been chanting for specific things, and I've been getting them.... My mother chants, too. We're chanting for her to overcome her cancer.... As a Buddhist, the way you experience benefit is to see it inside your life before you see it outside."

Her message: "I try to write songs which encourage people to continue, not give up. Your potential strength is equal to the problems that come your way. You should not be afraid to help others or to receive help. If we could all cooperate, we could get more out of each moment. Also, see problems as challenges and see your life as a quest. In other words, look for the silver lining."



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