In 1979, Bernadette Cooper formed Klymaxx. She narrowed the band down to the six girls who became the popular band. Klymaxx's uniqueness is due to the all-girl band's ability to play instruments, and their sound was influential because of its comedic, women power theme. Klymaxx's original members are (vocalist, drummer) Bernadette Cooper, (vocalist) Lorena Porter (Stewart), (guitarist) Cheryl Cooley, (keyboardists) Lynn Malsby, (keyboardists) Robbin Grider and later, after the band signed to Solar records (bassist/ vocalist) Joyce Irby, was added to the band.
Inspired by the past generation of Mack divas (Lynn Collins, LaBelle, Brides of Funkenstein, and Chaka Khan) as well as Prince’s computer blue funk, Klymaxx was on a mission to kick ass.
“The forming of Klymaxx felt more like it was an out of body experience. It was guided by a force that I can’t explain,” Cooper says. “I remember the struggles and the sacrifice, but I also remember the camaraderie of six girls focusing on one goal. We sent out a few demos and immediately came to the attention of SOLAR (Sound of Los Angeles Records) through an executive named Margaret Nash; she urged her boss Dick Griffey to check us out. He came to our rehearsal, watched us play and immediately offered us a record deal.
On the West Coast during the 1980s, SOLAR represented the new music of young Black America. Sometimes called “the new Motown,” the label was owned and operated by Dick Griffey. As the home of chart-topping artists Shalamar, Midnight Star, Bobby Womack, Lakeside, the Whispers, Carrie Lucas and The Deele, they were thriving in a time when hip-hop was creeping-up from the underground
With Griffey’s empire located on 1635 N. Cahuenga in a building SOLAR owned, there was also a recording studio on the premises where his artists worked.
A complicated man, Griffey was a mentor to both Babyface and Death Row founder Suge Knight. Although Griffey was seen as a gangster by some, to Cooper he was always a gentleman. “Dick was a friend and a wonderful man,” she says. “He took a girl from Compton, and, not only taught me the music business, but he also introduced me to fine dining, escargot and instructed me on great wines. I owe him my career. If Dick hadn’t been around, I wouldn’t be pursuing my dreams.”
While Klymaxx might’ve collaborated with a few male producers, they realized that they weren’t looking for anyone to control their sound, style or swag.
This was the general consensus amongst the girls after releasing their underwhelming debut, Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman, in 1981, which was controlled and conceptualized by their male counterparts.
It wasn’t until Klymaxx’s new wave, electro third album Meeting in the Ladies Room (1984) that they became a femme force in the industry With the catchy “The Men All Pause,” “Meeting in the Ladies Room” and the mushy ballad “I Miss You,” their most successful single.
Klymaxx had become more self-contained, writing tracks and directing the sessions (“The Men All Pause” was co-produced by Steve Shockley, Bernadette Cooper and Joyce “Fenderella” Irby. “We started writing for ourselves, because we were tired of men writing us lines like, ‘When you get home baby, I want you to rub my feet,' Cooper said, “We complained to Dick and he said, ‘Fine, make your own album.’ With that, Klymaxx became real. We had freedom, and that’s a beautiful thing.” As seen in “The Men All Pause” video, with Cooper clad in fuzzy leopard-skinned top, it wasn’t uncommon for her to step from behind her drums to sing and talk smack on the mic. The songs that KLYMAXX made popular are: "The Men All Pause", "Meeting In The Ladies Room,"" I Miss You," "Divas Need Love Too," "Sexy," "Man Size Love," "I'd Still Say Yes," "Wild Girls" and Coopers "I Look Good."
At the same time, she was also making creative strides as a song writer. As Klymaxx producers, Jimmy and Terry gravitated towards her style and her songs. Griffey, a former drummer himself, had a knack for grooming producers, including Leon Sylvers III, Reggie and Vincent Calloway, LA and Babyface and Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam. Klymaxx was the first band Jam and Lewis recorded back in 1982 when the emerging duo produced the group’s second album Girls Will Be Girls. In the studio, Cooper closely observed the duo at work. “I was completely inspired by them and their methods and approach to music,” she says. “I watched, listened and I learned.” While women are often excluded from the production process, Griffey took a chance. “He instinctively recognized my raw talent,” Cooper says. “There aren’t many men in this industry who respect the vision of a woman, but Dick wasn’t afraid.”
Cooper’s sound became a mixture of Minneapolis styled synthesizers, George Clinton’s cosmic slop, James Brown eternal funk and the majestic pop of Quincy Jones, that was distinctively her own.
In 1987, due to the bands internal conflicts, Cooper left the band to pursue outside projects. "With all great bands, people outgrow situations," Cooper said of the break-up. "It's plain and simple. I think we were all equal in poverty in the beginning. We were all hungry, reaching for the same goal, going towards that light together, but as time [went] on - people wanted to have babies and get married - everybody starts separating and getting into their own thing. "And of course, within a group you have your friction, especially when one or two members that people focus on more," she continued. Our vision, as a unit, simply changed.
"I was getting a lot of focus and that's because I was so outrageous. If you didn't notice me, I was going to make sure you did notice me"- "I wanted to be remarkable, the band wanted me to blend in. That was very difficult for me to do. My personal mission is not to blend in, but to be innovative."
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