An Interview with “Ring My Bell” Singer Anita Ward
By Gregg Shapiro
You can’t blame Anita Ward for not liking to be considered a “one hit wonder.” That said, her chart-topping 1979 hit single “Ring My Bell” is not a bad song with which to be associated. As disco tracks of that era go, “Ring My Bell” is one of the most distinctive. The amalgamation of Ward’s soulful soprano, the persistent chime, and funky disco beat all combined to make “Ring My Bell” one of the most unforgettable songs of the period, and one that still has the power to get you up and dancing. Anita Ward is one of the legendary disco divas who will be performing on the second Ultimate Disco Cruise, a five-day entertainment-packed cruise sailing from Miami to Key West and the Bahamas, from February 10-15, 2020. In advance of the cruise, Ward was kind enough to answer a few questions about her hit song and performing.
Gregg Shapiro: June 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of your hit single “Ring My Bell” reaching the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also hit number one on the Disco and Hot Soul Singles charts. Do you recall how you felt when that happened?
Anita Ward: I was truly amazed! I have always liked to sing. But when I heard it on the radio, I could not believe it. I said, “Wow! This cannot be true! This can’t be happening!” It was a very wonderful feeling, extremely [laughs].
GS: “Ring My Bell” stood out from the other cuts on the Songs of Love album, most of which were soulful ballads. When it comes to ballads and dance tracks, do you prefer one over the other?
AW: I definitely love ballads. Actually, I think, at the time I said I didn’t really like “Ring My Bell.” I think it’s because I was new in the business. I didn’t understand that you had to have something that was catchy [laughs]. We ended up releasing that one because everybody just loved that song. My goodness! And I love it also now [big laugh].
GS: I write for several LGBTQ publications and I was wondering if you made any appearances at gay discos at the time that “Ring My Bell” was in heavy rotation?
AW: Yes, I did. Certainly, I went to some of the bars. I can’t remember the names, so they may not have been big-name type of venues. Yes, I certainly did. They accepted me so well. It was an additional opportunity to be able to be a part of all of that scene.
GS: Shortly after “Ring My Bell” reached number one, the unfortunate Disco Demolition took place in Chicago. Do you remember how it made you feel as an artist associated with that musical genre?
AW: Well, I didn’t feel very well. As a matter of fact, the phone stopped ringing. Really, it did. I did not have nearly as much work because of this attack upon that genre of music. But I’m a survivor.
GS: In February 2020, you will be one of the divas performing on the second installment of the Ultimate Disco Cruise. What does that mean to you?
AW: It’s a tremendous honor. There are some perks to being older! To still be called to participate in that is a real honor. I’m looking forward to it.
GS: What do you like best about performing in front of a live audience?
AW: I like it! It probably is good for your ego, a little bit, to see all those people when the venues are so large. The more intimate type setting, if you want to feel closer to the guests in the audience, is always better. They both are good, although I probably prefer the more intimate events.
GS: Does performing on this kind of themed event, with others from the world of disco, feel like a family reunion?
AW: Yes! That’s a good way to put it. It does because every time I get to meet some of the people who are on the scene it makes me know how blessed I’ve been to be a part of this. Yes [laughs], it really is like a reunion.
GS: How are your sea legs?
AW: I usually do pretty well. It’s no problem at all. I get mesmerized by that water. That can be something. It’s so beautiful!