Brooks, Alma Faye
Origin: Little Burgundy, Texas, 🇺🇸 - Montréal, Québec, 🇨🇦
Texas-born soul diva Alma Faye Brooks moved to Montreal when she was just a kid and grew up in Little Burgundy where she went from singing as big-voiced kid at Union United Church – the beacon of Montreal’s black community for a century – to singing in smokey nightclubs and on the stage in touring musicals like Hair.
“I always use to hum and sing around the house, and my grandmother would sing – she did it very humbly with the choir at Union United,” says Brooks. “Years later I attended the same church and sang on different occasions, and the elders at the church would always say, ‘She’s just like her grandmother!’”
When she grew up Alma decided she wanted to be a professional singer. “So I hit the road. My first pro gig was with the Broadway musical Hair and that introduced me to a whole new world.”
Then in 1977 at the height of the disco craze – when Montreal was one of the scene’s global epicenters – Brooks burst onto the scene with her Juno-nominated American disco hit Stop, I Don’t Need No Sympathy that was released as an RCA records 12” single. She was nominated for another Juno in 1978 (Most Promising Female Singer), the same year Patsy Gallant, Joni Mitchell, Claudja Barry, Dan Hill, Gordon Lightfoot, Gino Vanelli, Rush, April Wine, BTO, Trooper and Anne Murray were also nominated for Junos.
Just to give you a reminder of what the Canadian music scene was like back then.
“I got a phone call from the Boule Noir organization at the time – I did back-up vocals for one of his albums – and this producer introduced this little ditty to me. We put down the tracks [for Stop, I Don’t Need No Sympathy] in the studio, it came out and made some noise,” Brooks says. “It got some nice numbers. But it’s all serendipity. Things just fell into place.”
So much so that her album Doin’ It was picked up stateside by Casablanca Records, the famed label run by the late Neil Bogart and home to such acts Cher, KISS, Donna Summer and the Village People. Brooks charted a couple more singles, It’s Over and Don’t Fall In Love.
Today, the disco veteran is the frontwoman of La Gioventu, a popular corporate and private party band that regularly headlines concerts at the Rialto Theatre, like her popular Motown revue or this weekend’s Disco Inferno concert. “I came out doing disco, I was raised on soul and gospel, and it has made me what I am today. But at the end of the day my greatest reward is my family and grandchildren.”
But will Alma sing Stop, I Don’t Need No Sympathy at Disco Inferno?
Brooks smiles. “I might at that.”
Her first hit was a cover of "Stop, I Don't Need No Sympathy", a song that Lyn Roman had sung in 1973.
Her biggest hits were "It's Over" and "Don't Fall In Love", both from her 1979's solo album.
She was twice a nominee for the Canadian Juno Awards in the category "Most Promising Female Vocalist" in 1978 and 1980. She lost the award from the winners Lisa Dal Bello and France Joli, respectively.