''I Love You Always Forever'' is the number 2 song, according to ''Billboard''

By Dave Karger
Updated September 13, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

”Is it a dance?” asks Welsh singer-songwriter Donna Lewis, possibly the only person in America who doesn’t know about the Macarena. That she moved from England only two years ago offers some excuse for her naivete, but considering that the ubiquitous Spanish twist is the one thing keeping her giddy debut single, ”I Love You Always Forever,” from the top slot of Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart, her question is startling.

Granted, the classically trained Woodstock, N.Y., resident with the self-described ”Rickie Lee Jones/Cyndi Lauper sort of girlie voice” has been busy — both touring in North America and Europe and watching her ethereal single vault up the chart, where it has occupied the No. 2 spot for three weeks. ”I was thrilled when it first went into the top 100 at number 95,” says Lewis of ”I Love You” (originally titled ”Lydia” after the H.E. Bates novel Love for Lydia). ”I would’ve been happy if it had gotten into the top 20.”

Atlantic, Lewis’ record company, obviously had greater ambitions. After receiving Lewis’ demo tape via an endless series of connections, A&R rep Jennifer Stark hired a private eye to track her down. (Word of the label’s interest eventually reached Lewis in Birmingham, England, and the investigator was called off.) ”I heard it and I was like, ‘This is Enya with songs,”’ Stark remembers. ”’This is going to be huge.”’

For the wispy singer, who won’t reveal her age — she and her husband/manager, Martin Harris, have been married for nine years, so ”you know I’m not 21” — the deal with Atlantic meant an end to teaching flute and performing with cover bands. It also meant having to fulfill such promotional duties as appearing on The Rosie O’Donnell Show and Live With Regis & Kathie Lee, though the latter’s two-minutes-only rule meant ”I couldn’t even get to my bridge! They faded me out on the second chorus.” Jitters also took their toll. ”My first line was a bit dodgy,” she recalls. ”I was wobbly on the old vocals.”

While Lewis awaits the release next month of ”Without Love,” the follow-up single from her steadily rising Now in a Minute album, might she consider devising a dance step for ”I Love You Always Forever” to help muscle past the ”Macarena”? ”We’ll have to work on that,” she laughs. ”If you have any ideas, ring me.”