Debbie Deb on Covers: "Janet Jackson Did 'Lookout Weekend,' She Botched It"
If you're old enough to recall the mid '80s, you can probably recognize the sounds of Debbie Deb's "When I Hear Music" and "Lookout Weekend" in an instant. The freestyle hits were the teen anthems of their day, ubiquitous soundtracks at roller rinks and mall parking lots. Younger listeners may know them too. Years later, they're still played on "party stations" like Miami's Power 96.
Photo by Suzanne Collier
But most likely you know nothing about the singer behind the tracks, Deborah Wesoff Lopez (now Deborah Lopez Kowalski). After recording her two hits in 1984 and 1985, respectively, her label, Music Specialist/Jam Packed, hired other "Debbie Debs" to perform her songs and record new (albeit far less successful) ones, effectively writing her out of her own history.
Nearly two decades after she helped forment the partly Miami-originated freestyle sound alongside legendary 305 producer "Pretty" Tony Butler, "the real Debbie Deb" is on the road, reclaiming her legacy one show at a time. We here at Crossfade spoke to her ahead of her apperance at Magic City Casino this Saturday.
Crossfade: Is this the real Debbie Deb? It's not one of those impostors, right?
Debbie Deb: This is the real one who wrote "When I Hear Music" and "Lookout Weekend" back in '84 and '85. And then...they dissed me.
Dissed you, huh?
Back then, MTV was just coming out and nobody knew how I looked, and they didn't want a heavy girl. They wanted a Madonna type. A sexy, dancer type. So they did a Milli Vanilli kind of thing. There was no picture of me [on the singles], so nobody knew the difference. But this is the real Debbie Deb. My name is Deborah.
When you say "they," who is that?
When I say "they," I am referring to [producer] Pretty Tony, his record label back then. It was called Jam Packed, or Music Specialist. I really wasn't too sure. I was never told any information back then.
What have you been doing all these years since?
I did the two songs, and never had any idea that they were going to blow up and become club anthems. I was just having fun in the studio. I liked to play around and sing. I was never looking be a singer. It just happened. When the songs became popular, I had no stage presence, I didn't know how to fight stage fright. I had no training. I didn't know how to perform for people. And they saw that, obviously. The voice was good for them but the rest of the package wasn't. So they had a couple other girls going around doing clubs in the '80s as Debbie Deb. That scarred me pretty rough for a few years. I became a hairdresser, had my son back then, got married and did the mom thing. And I just didn't want anything to do with the music business. At the same time, there were other Debbie Debs out there performing my songs. That's why I say, "The Real Debbie Deb."