‘You Make Me Feel, Mighty Real!’ Oh, how that lyric line sung by Sylvester, the Queen of Disco Sylvester over a gospel-tinged disco beat made those who heard and danced to it truly feel mighty. That one line can sum up the impact Sylvester had on a generation of club kids, an era of music.
January 13, 1979 – 44 Years Ago Today: Sylvester debuted at No. 85 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with his single, ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’. It was written by James Wirrick and Sylvester, and released as the second single from Sylvester’s fourth album, Step II. The song was already a largely popular dance club hit in late 1978, as the B-side of his previous single ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’, before it was officially being released in December.
‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ was originally recorded as a mid-tempo piano-driven gospel song; however, after producer Patrick Cowley saw a rehearsal of the song at San Francisco’s City Club, he then offered to remix the song. The result was one of the pioneering disco records using some electronic instrumentation and effects, following closely on Donna Summers iconic ‘I Feel Love’ which heavily used electronic instrumentation ahead of its time. These 1970s songs using electronic instrumentation would have an influence on 1980s and 1990s dance music, which in turn, would have an influence on dance music in the next century.
In Sylvester’s home country, the single was billed on the Disco Top 100 Chart with ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’ and both singles were simultaneously No. 1. ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’ was his first Hot 100 entry the previous August and peaked at No. 19 on November 25, 1978. The song also reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles Chart. The single was his second Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in February 1979.
A 12″ single was released in 1978, with ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’ as the A-side and ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ as the B-side, and these two extended dance mixes proved to be very popular in dance clubs at the time. The two songs held down the top spot on the Billboard Dance Disco Chart for six weeks in August and September 1978. These two songs helped to establish Sylvester’s career as a noted disco and dance music performer, both in the US and abroad. And we danced, and danced… He made us feel, mighty real.
Music critic Robert Christgau has said the song is “one of those surges of sustained, stylized energy that is disco’s great gift to pop music”. In 2003, Q Magazine included ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ in their list of the ‘1001 Best Songs Ever’. In 2019, the song was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registery for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ and Dance (Disco Heat) can both found on his iconic albums ‘Step II’ and ‘Living Proof’ (live album).