The Past, Present And Future of Dutch Robinson [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – With his extensive resume and over four decades in the music industry, it’s not hard to consider Dutch Robinson a living legend. From South Bronx, NY, Robinson began his career as the lead singer in R&B/soul sensation Ohio Players, and has since acted out the role of Marvin Gaye, worked with Cirque Du Soliel, and been nominated for a Grammy, along with countless other accomplishments. Now he has made his way from Nova Scotia and is settling into Vancity. KassKills gets the goods on Dutch’s past, present and future, plus a couple interesting collaborations that are in the works. Check it out after the jump.
HipHopCanada: So, you’ve been a musician for a long time, beginning with the Ohio Players. You went solo in 1977 and my question is: do you ever miss playing with a band?
Dutch Robinson: No. Not at all. It was good while it lasted. The guys were pretty good; we had our ups and downs but when it was time to go, it was time. I had been there six years so that was it.
HipHopCanada: You’ve had an opportunity to work with some amazing musicians in the past, Daryl Hall, John Oates, and Curtis Mayfield. Since you have settled into Canada, who are some of the Canadian artists you have had an opportunity to work with?
Dutch Robinson: Yeah, I have something out with Ghetto Child, something on Quake. Working with quite a few artists. Right now, I’m working with Mad Child and with Matt Brevner. Yeah, we’ve been doing some stuff around here. I’m enjoying it.
HipHopCanada: Where are you currently located?
Dutch Robinson: In Nova Scotia but I’m making the move out here. I love it out here. There are a lot of things happening that aren’t happening in Halifax. Halifax had its day and it seems to be more Celtic out there and anyone with a violin can get a job but not too much for R&B. I mean people do love my music out there though. I just finished doing something with the symphony and I work with a lot of kids. I volunteer if they need me. I do Christmas Daddies and some others things in Nova Scotia. I do a lot of television as well.
HipHopCanada: You starred in the musical theater production, “ Dream Of A Lifetime“, which is the life story of Marvin Gaye. How was that experience re-enacting the life of a legend?
Dutch Robinson: It was more than just an experience; it became a way of life actually. It was kind of hard; I took on Marvin Gaye. A lot of people thought I couldn’t do it because I had never acted before on stage. I was in Montreal for about two years and it was hard breaking into the music scene there but the Black Theater workshop came along and asked me if I could act and I told them “sure”. Being from New York you gotta act really early there. They gave me a shot at it. We actually did Club Soda twice and it was sold out for the whole 30 days I did it. Then we took it to Toronto with Donald K Donald and it sold out there every night for three months. After that, we went to England and that was sold out for the time we were there. A lot of people were focused on who had the nerve to do Marvin Gaye and the thing that bothered me most was finding out all the different things that he had gone through. I had his bodyguard around me, I was dating some of the same girls that went out with him and I was actually getting called Marvin more than I was getting called Dutch. There was once particular time when they gave me a membership card to the Yacht Club on the Tim’s and they made me and honorary member. I was sitting there with one of Marvin’s old girlfriends, Lady Edith Foxwell and she was telling me about him not having a suit to go to a show or all the things he was going through, how he dealt with the drugs. Some awful stories coming out of theses folk’s mouths, I wound up in tears. Everybody that’s tried to do it hasn’t been that successful. If you go to the history book of rock and roll you’ll see that my doing of the show was the only recognized version of a show about Marvin Gaye.
HipHopCanada: That’s something to be proud of. What are some of you other accomplishments that stand out, that you are truly proud of?
Dutch Robinson: My kids, that’s my biggest accomplishment. Being able to have talented and smart kids. They are doing something I didn’t do. I didn’t finish school so…that’s my biggest accomplishment. I have a 22 year old who is also extremely talented, his name is Zaz and people outta check him out, I Am Zaz on YouTube. I think he’s gonna be very strong in the music business.
HipHopCanada: What are some of the qualities you look for in young artists when you’re deciding to collaborate with them?
Dutch Robinson: Real talent. Real, genuine talent. Somebody that has a broad scope of what’s going on but also someone who is focused on what they want to do and are quite sure of whom they are. The one thing I find about singers in the business is that they often don’t get the right education. I hear a lot of them singing and when they get to 30, 40 years old they wont be able to sing because they are not properly trained. A lot of people singing from their throat instead of singing from their diaphragm. I do give lessons to young singers. The music business has changed so much. Collaborations are all over the Internet. The young people are keeping the old school alive. A lot of them run out of ideas so they grab these songs that we’ve had out for 50 years and bringing them back and making people rich again. That’s a nice thing. A lot of artists don’t have incomes after a certain time in their life because nobody’s is buying the songs. This revival of their music has taken a lot of writers out of the poor house. Like, my thing with Bone Thugs N Harmony, that’s been paying me for the last 13 years.
Interview and photography by @KassKills for HipHopCanada
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