Essra Mohawk (born Sandra Elayne Hurvitz on April 23, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter who has recorded a dozen albums, many receiving critical acclaim. Her best known songs are "Change of Heart" recorded by Cyndi Lauper and "Stronger Than the Wind," recorded by Tina Turner.
Mohawk was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her first record, The Boy With The Way, credited to Jamie Carter, was issued on Liberty Records in 1964. As Sandy Hurvitz, she was then discovered by Shadow Morton, who placed her songs with both the Shangri-Las ("I'll Never Learn") and the Vanilla Fudge ("The Spell That Comes After"). While living in New York City in 1967 she met Frank Zappa, who persuaded her to perform for a short time with The Mothers of Invention and then signed her to his production company Bizarre. Her first album Sandy's Album Is Here At Last was released on Verve/Bizarre in December 1968.
In 1969 she was signed by Reprise Records after executive Mo Ostin discovered her singing at a club in New York. The resulting album, Primordial Lovers, was later stated as being "one of the best 25 albums ever made" in Rolling Stone magazine. The album featured contributions from CSN&Y drummer Dallas Taylor and former Rhinoceros members Doug Hastings and Jerry Penrod. Essra nearly joined Rhinoceros in its original line up. While recording the album, she married her producer Frazier Mohawk and from then on was known as Essra Mohawk. "Essra" (S-ra) is an abbreviated form of Sandra.
Her third, self-titled, album came out on Asylum Records in 1974. The next album, Essra, was released on yet another label, Private Stock, in 1976. During that period, she also worked as a session and background singer, for John Mellencamp, Carole King and later she performed with the Jerry Garcia Band, and recorded and arranged background vocals for Kool & the Gang. In 1982 after recording another album in L.A., she worked with McFadden and Whitehead in Philadelphia, penning "Not With Me" for their Capitol album, Movin' On. She released another solo album, E-Turn, before Cyndi Lauper had a big hit with her song "Change of Heart" in 1986. Members of Generation X may recognize her distinctive voice from the Saturday morning TV series Schoolhouse Rock!, as she lent her voice to Interjections! and Sufferin' Till Suffrage in the mid-70's. In 2011 she provided the lead vocal for an animated short film produced by TDA Animation, about the Struggle for Gay Rights; called; Sufferin' Till You're Straight. The spot featured former Supremes, Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene on background vocals.
She has written songs for other artists including co-writing a song entitled 'Infinite Eyes' with blues artist Keb Mo as well as recording and performing in concert. She 's released 6 more albums since moving to Nashville in 1993. Essra's songs have been aired on the TV series Joan of Arcadia and the soap opera All My Children. Rhino released a special limited edition of her second and third albums, Primordial Lovers MM in 2000. Essra has been a longtime advocate of peace and environmental protection. She is a member of the board of Musicians and Artists for Peace and is their Nashville coordinator.