Dawn Robinson has been a part of some history-making groups and moments in music, specifically the fashion-forward group En Vogue. Joining her former bandmates Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, and Maxine Jones, they were the talk of the early 90s, having sold 30 million records worldwide. Throughout their career, the group amassed a ton of awards and nominations, but sadly, as with many girl groups, they were hit with member changes and internal shifts.
It’s no secret that Dawn Robinson was an integral part of the group and their sound, but her departure didn’t necessarily slow the group’s success down. Their album EV3, released after Robinson left, produced three hit singles, including the worldwide smash hit “Don’t Let Go (Love).”
Robinson gained a reputation for being a talented act that would end up in a dissolved situation. She spoke on being ousted from the group, which many thought she voluntarily left, however, she revealed to YouKnowIGotSoul.Com that she had been given an ultimatum and not a choice. “I had been there for 8 years, and we hadn’t made money yet, two pennies a record” the Envious singer explained. “We did two albums. Our first album “Born to Sing”, the terms were great, we never had an album, we took what we could get. Once you go platinum and you sell a million copies, you’re supposed to renegotiate for better terms. Here we are on the second album with the same terms as the first album. Are you kidding me? So we got the same advance as the first album, which was about $40K, or $10K a piece. The first time around it was great, I had never had that. Then here we are at the second album and we had the same terms, that was a problem. By the time I left in ’97, we had sold 28 million records, and we only made two pennies a record. That’s insane, like highway robbery.”
Continuing, she said: “When you take care of an artist and you are successful as a label, you take care of that artist! The artist will leave and go to another label if they are not happy. We still continued even though we weren’t getting the same amount everybody else was getting, and kept working. That came out in 1992 and I didn’t leave until 1997. That’s a long time to be in that situation.”
However, Dawn is in happier times now and able to reflect on the better times that she’s had with the group. She has, indeed, had a massive career with not only one of the legendary top-selling girl groups of all time but with Lucy Pearl as well. “ On the positive side, I was part of a group that I loved for so long,” Robinson reflects. “I loved both groups I was a part of. En Vogue & Lucy Pearl. That puts your name out there and fans can see who you are.”
Being a part of En Vogue led to some incredible opportunities along the way, like opening for top billers of their time, before getting to headline their own world tours. One of the tours they had the honor of co-headlining was 1993’s “Funky Divas/Never Let Me Go Tour” with the incomparable Luther Vandross. Unfortunately, what could have been a hell of a great time on the road with two great acts ended up being, a hellish experience for the ladies.
Dawn had a recent virtual interview for the Discussions NT podcast with host Anthony Green where she discussed a bevy of topics, including En Vogue’s time with Vandross and his rigid tour demands. “He was nuts!” she began. “I love Luther Vandross to this day, God rest his soul, but Luther had some issues with women.” The group, she says, signed a contract for the tour as customary, however, she detailed some outlandish terms within the agreement that spiraled into other upcoming issues.
“In the contract, Anthony, this man did not want us to wear red, white, blue, or black, which you have no other colors,” she continued. “Those are the primary colors, are you kidding me? We signed that contract.” Robinson adds that the contract also states they couldn’t wear anything that attracted light or sparkled. Due to their limitations on outfits and staging, the group would receive bad reviews in almost every city that they visited.
Another moment that she reflected on was a situation involving a loan they received from their record company due to the bad reviews and having had enough of the “En Vogue” name being tarnished. They were given Versace “leather mesh duster” thigh-high boots for the show, and upon seeing the boots, Luther requested those same boots to be worn for himself.
The group spoke about their Luther ride in the past with the Chicago Tribune, giving a bit more details of what really transpired. “The stage was situated close to the dressing room doors, and our hallway was the way to get to the stage,” said one of the group members in a phone interview. “We were on the same hallway (as Vandross), and he told us if we walked down that hallway, he was going to call the police. Cindy was six months pregnant. We were told to get in a car and drive to the other side of the stadium to get to the stage, and it made no sense. We were like, ‘Well, I guess we’re going to jail tonight.’ When the police got there, they saw how ridiculous it was, and they escorted us to the stage.”
They add: “Within all the drama, we still loved Luther. We would still stand at the side of the stage every night and watch him perform. We ended up leaving the tour early.”
According to his 2004 biography, “‘Luther: The Life and Longing Of Luther Vandross by Craig Seymour”, it was confirmed: “While on tour in Miami, Luther saw that a member of En Vogue had wandered over to ‘his side’ of the drawn curtain. His temper hit full-tilt and he ‘actually’ called the Miami police to demand the group be charged with trespassing.”