Oh… Snap!

iinta mini-series 3/3 | Penny Ford is the Rhythm of a Dancer

Author/Editor: Jennifer J. Lacelle
May 17, 2021

There’s a rise that comes, like the ocean tide, when people do what they love. It’s why pursuing passions is so important to — and for — people. But just like ocean waves, we can get swept up with the current and either ride the wave or hit the undertow. It’s the continually rising back to the surface that sets people apart.

Penny Ford continually rises despite everything that happens in life!

She actually discovered a different girl miming her voice in the video for Snap!’s hit song, The Power upon it’s release. However, shortly after viewing the music video, the record company reached out to her.

Looking back, Ford says she could have asked for more money and received it because they didn’t want to experience the same thing with her that they did with Milli Vanilli (link to feature 02).

Ford spent two years with Snap! following that incident. Touring was going quite well with the band, and company, until discord began emerging within the structure of the group. During the uproar, that would eventually hit the newsstands across America, Ford didn’t feel safe.

She explains that at the time, the music industry was switching to gangster rap, and it was the lifestyle many musicians were aiming for because they saw vast amounts of money in their future if they followed suit. She chuckles thinking about people who believed they were some kind of gang member.

Ford continued explaining how the current style of music she was performing — EDM — was far bigger than the new style, gangster rap. Alas, she felt no one was listening. What happened next was a tumultuous brawl that turned out to be the final straw on the camel’s back.  

In short, the government was beginning to enact laws which protects homosexuals from hate crimes. So, when no less than eight drag queens were beat up at an AIDs function they were attending, the band found themselves surrounded by picketers at their concerts.

Some members returned to Germany while Ford remained in the US, at what she felt was meant to mend the fence with fans. However, she decided not put her career in jeopardy, especially since she had been innocent bystander during the debacle, and subsequently left the group.

Penny Ford | June 28, 2019 Courtesy of Leonardio DaVinci Barnette

When she walked away, Ford assumed she would be starting over, but says she didn’t realize the millions of dollars she was leaving.

“I thought this was about music and integrity. I didn’t have a concept of how much I was leaving,” she says. “Every time I left, I walked away from all the money, and didn’t even know or look back and go hey, where’s my money?”

In a way it was better for her to leave before she earned the copious volumes of money and additional fame. Upon reaching such a level she would have been placed on a list for priority parties in the musical industry. Ford is thankful she never received such invitations since the drug abuse was so heavy that she feels she may not have survived.

“I truly believe I may have been dead,” says Ford. “I think it was by design from the universe.”

Despite walking away from Snap!, Ford wouldn’t be starting from scratch. When the record labels in the US realized she was no longer signed with the Germans, a bidding war began because they wanted her talent. Her abilities included EDM, jazz, pop, country and gospel, to name a few genres. The two main competitors vying for her to sign were Columbia/Sony and Elektra.

Eventually, Ford went with Columbia/Sony where she had Randy Jackson as an executive producer. The company wanted Ford to continue creating EDM style music, but she refused as she wanted to create more traditional music. However, she did have the opportunity to write with iconic musician, Joni Mitchell.

As Ford prepared to release her own record, which was supposed to have a massive launch, she didn’t realize how much involvement star musician Mariah Carey had within the company.

Ford feels she received “throwaway songs” and that the company had placed more resources into Carey’s next album than her own, which meant Ford’s record didn’t receive as much attention at launch. Though, she points out that she received a number of top musicians and artists to work with for her record despite the declining spotlight.

She also wanted to get involved with soundtracks for television shows and movies with Columbia. Their animated series were going global and the use of pop stars in soundtracks was rising. Because music is consistently evolving, and the time of hip hop and gangster rap was stepping into place, it was always a possibility.

Photo by Fabian Otto
Photo by Fabian Otto

If you look at the last few years, it’s become far more common, for example: The Lion King (1994 and 2019), Frozen (2013), Sing (2016), or The Greatest Showman (2017). A few of the artists included in this list are Elton John, Beyoncé, Idina Menzel, Ariana Grande, Zac Efron and Zendaya.

Despite the dedication she put into her first album with Columbia, including marketing and promotions, she was dropped. This came two weeks before she was slated to work with David Hasselhoff, who had been the one to approach her for a duet, and begin working on her second album with them.

So, Ford began working with Chaka Khan again — and Prince. They toured together for a few years while Ford pieced herself back together. She also performed with Toni Braxton, Barry White, Barry Manilow, Brandi and on a TV show called Moesha. She says that at 40 years old she was trying to stay “hip and fresh” but eventually felt the urge to return home.

“Hollywood has a way of consuming you,” Ford says. “Why don’t I just go back to school for something?”

She didn’t pursue education as within six months of her arrival, Ford’s mother (Carolyn Ford-Griffith) suffered a massive stroke. Because only eight per cent of her brain was active, Ford didn’t want her to be a vegetable for the next 20 years, she asked the doctors to unplug the devices keeping her mom alive. However, three days later her mom woke up, hungry, and lived for another six years.

Ford-Griffith had been caring for her own mother before the stroke, and closed shop on six “crack centers,” converting them into learning centers.

May 25, 2019- Espelundens Idraetsanlaeg - Rodovre Denmark

Ford began caring for her mother, grandmother and the businesses during this time. Her family members resided in two separate facilities, and near the end she travelled to and from Germany to record music.

After both passed on, she decided that travelling to and from Germany didn’t make any sense anymore. In 2009, Ford decided to “roll the dice” and stay for a little bit. Though, she didn’t know if it would be two weeks or two months.

As of March 15, 2021, Ford has lived in Germany, and performed across the world with Snap!, for 12 years. In fact, Ford has visited over 80 countries — jealous yet?

Her popularity is continually rising. She is normally entirely booked a full year in advance, and even knows her schedule for the following year. That is, until Covid occurred. She’s waiting patiently for everything to open back up so she can continue her tours.

“Once all the promoters found out I was here in Europe, it became easier to promote me,” she says.

Snap! and KLF Hanging - Sep 17, 2019

In the meantime, check out the TikTok Challenge from Penny Ford & Snap!

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