Love Me Like You Should

Disco icon Sylvester may best be known for the international hit singles ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’, ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’, ‘Do You Wanna Funk’ and ‘Menergy’, but the recording artist’s groundbreaking career also furthered queer visibility in popular culture. Leaving a legacy that continues to influence today’s pop music.

Through the compelling new documentary ‘Love Me Like You Should: The Brave and Bold Sylvester’, produced for Pride 2020 by Amazon Music in collaboration with filmmaker Lauren Tabak and writer/consulting producer Barry Walters. The short documentary details the life and times of Sylvester James Jr., known mononymously as Sylvester.

When I saw Sylvester, my life was altered, my life was changed for the better. As a Black queer gay man, any glimmer of seeing oneself reflected back at them, through our culture, changes lives.

Billy Porter

The legacy of a musician who set new precedent for genderqueer, gay and black entertainers has been revisited the new mini-documentary. Sylvester’s story comes to life once more and the true extent of his impact – inside and out of the music industry – is explored.

It is a compilation of archival footage, as well as rare performance clips, charting Sylvester’s rise from Los Angeles choir boy to glam 1970s hit-maker. Starting with his birth in South Central Los Angeles, it charts the course of his move to San Fransisco’s Castro District and later breakthrough as a singer/songwriter.

He crossed over, he was a genderfluid Black man in mainstream music. That hasn’t happened since. There’s been a lot of us who have tried – and I’ve been trying for 30 years – nobody did it like Sylvester.

Billy Porter

While the significant influence of black culture on mainstream music extends back at least a century, James was among the first non-binary artists to achieve superstardom. As pointed out in the documentary, he championed gender fluidity years before it would be called that through his unapologetic style and demeanor.

The filmmakers also incorporate interviews with Sylvester’s sister Bernadette Baldwin, singer, actor and activist Billy Porter as well as collaborators like musician Peter Mintun, producer/songwriter James ‘Tip’ Wirrick, former background singer Martha Wash (Two Tons of Fun/Weather Girls), and Sylvester biographer Josh Gamson.

Sylvester was always ahead of us. He did things like talk about being married to a man before gay marriage was a thought. He responded to Joan Rivers saying that he was this drag queen by saying, ‘But I’m not a drag queen, I’m Sylvester.’ He wasn’t saying there’s something wrong with being a drag queen, he was saying that’s not how gender works. It was gender fluidity and nonbinary gender before we were really there.

Josh Gamson

In addition to interviews, and with his version of ‘God Bless The Child’ on the bacjground, – its is musical treasure! The kind of music he loved more then disco! – the 15-minute doc shows rare archival footage of Sylvester, including performances at The Stud, the historic San Francisco gay bar that recently shuttered. It also depicts how a 1979 show at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House was a healing, joyous moment for the city in the wake of the assassination of gay politician Harvey Milk.

Sylvester died at the age of 41 on December 16th, 1988 after a long battle of an AIDS-related illness. He had attended the San Francisco Pride parade in a wheelchair shortly before passing on to show solidarity even in his final years. His legacy, however, continues to live on…..

Watch the 15-minute documentary:

Amazon has also curated a playlist called Pride History on which ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ is an entry.

Want to read the whole story of Sylvester? Use the ‘Sylvester’ tag….

First Ladies of Disco Show, Some Love for Christmas

The chill of winter may be in the air, but the holidays will be a whole lot hotter this year as the First Ladies of Disco Show will be celebrating their Christmas Show at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan on November 29th and 30th. The show is flamboyantly and skillfully produced by mastermind James Washington and promises to be the fascination of the season.

With this, their firt Christmas-themed special, these heavenly-voiced performers will delight audiences with timeless holiday classics, as well as a few of their world famous high-energy hits’

Already the most talked about heritage group of the twenty-first century, First Ladies of Disco is comprised of legendary, award winning artist whose hits span multiple decades. The ensemble includes two-time Grammy nominee R&B/dance icon Martha Wash, Grammy and Oscar nominee, Linda Clifford, and Norma Jean Wright, lead vocalist of the multi-million selling group Chic.

Martha Wash

Singer, actress, spokesperson and gay icon Martha Wash, is recognized for her distinctive and powerhouse vocals. She first achieved fame as half of the Two Tons O’ Fun, who sang backing for R&B and disco singer Sylvester including on his signature hit ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’. After gaining their own record deal, they released three consecutive commercially successful songs which all peaked at number 2 in the dance charts. The duo was renamed The Weather Girls in 1982 after they released the top-selling single ‘It’s Raining Men’, which brought them to mainstream pop attention. The Weather Girls released five albums and were heavily featured on Sylvester’s albums.

Her release ‘It’s Raining Men’, Still played everywhere was one of the most epic songs to hit the music business. Wash is also known for her transition to house music and her success on the Dance Charts earned her the name ‘The Queen of Clubland’, with C+C Music Factory; ‘Do You Wanna Get Funky’, ‘Everybody Dance Now’, with DJ Todd Tery two duets with friend Jocelyn Brown ‘Keep on Jumping’ and ‘Something Goin’ On (In Your Soul). To name just a few.

Linda Clifford

Linda Clifford, R&B, Disco and House vocalist, is best recognized for her hits, ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ and ‘Runaway Love’. Clifford is also a former ‘Miss New York State’, and appeared in movies such as: ‘The Boston Strangler’ with Tony Curtis, ‘Sweet Charity’ with Shirley MacLaine, and ‘Coogan’s Bluff’, with Clint Eastwood.

Norma Jean Wright

Former lead singer of the group Chic, Norma Jean Wright is known for songs such as, ‘Le Freak’, ‘Everybody Dance’, and ‘I want Your Love’. After her departure from Chic, Wright pursed a successful solo career billed as Norma Jean. Her first top 20 hit, ‘Saturday’, as a solo artist came from her debut album which was produced by Nile Rodgers.

With this, their firt Christmas-themed special, these heavenly-voiced performers will delight audiences with timeless holiday classics, as well as a few of their world famous high-energy hits’. Together on one stage these three ‘First Ladies of Disco’ are receiving rave reviews from people everywhere.

First Ladies of Disco has been called “a big bright spot on the live performance circuit” by Beatselectr Magazine. The Huffington Post has said the ladies will deliver nothing short of an ‘electrifying performance’. And now for the first time, they will lend their magical voices to the music that makes the holidays such a special time of the year.

First Ladies of Disco Show deliver the gift of music and songs at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan on November, 29th an 30th.

Sylvester at War Memorial Opera House

‘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.

Sylvester and The Two Tons of FunSylvester and his girls Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes performing live at War Memorial Opera House 

November 27, 1978, San Francisco was mourning of the killing of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone by Dan White, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. That evening, a spontaneous gathering began to form on Castro Street, moving toward City Hall in a candlelight vigil. Their numbers were estimated between 35,000 and 40,000, spanning the width of Market Street, extending the mile and a half (2.4 km) from Castro Street.

The next day, the bodies of George Moscone and Harvey Milk were brought to the City Hall rotunda where mourners paid their respects. Over six thousand mourners attended a service for Mayor Moscone at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Two memorials were held for Milk; a small one at Temple Emanu-El and a more boisterous one at the War Memorial Opera House.

Sylvester and Harvey Milk

Sylvester & Harvey Milk

March 11, 1979,  Sylvester, and his girls Martha Wash, Izora Rhodes, Jeanie Tracy and Sharon Hymes, together with a large band, and the complete 26-piece San Francisco Symphony Orchestra blew of the roof of the 3,000-seat sold out War Memorial Opera House. San Francisco where Sylvester wore the moniker of the Queen of the Castro alongside his Disco title, he blends all the colors in his musical palette into a work of remarkable imagination and spirit.

A genuine original, he was the vèry first ‘modern’ artist to perform in a classic Opera House, he was one of that special breed of performers who come fully to life onstage, who have the unfailing instincts to ignite an audience with sophistication, sass, and style. In a business where clones abound, Sylvester was the real thing.

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When asked about heroes, Sylvester is the first on lips of gay men who went out dancing in the 1970’s. Sylvester embodied the disco fantasy in wich race and gender lose their relevance.

Sylvester treated attendees to ballads, covers and medleys, in addition to Sylvester’s own hits. His falsetto sound was a mix of male and female voice. Most intriguing about the venue was the sheer range of material being performed. Sylvester covered everything from the Beatles ‘Blackbird’ to Billie Holiday’s ‘Lover Man’ to Barry Manilow’s ‘Could It Be Magic’. Sylvester’s reinterpretations of Thelma Houston’s Sharing Something Perfect Between Ourselves and Patti LaBelle’s ‘You Are My Friend’ where the standout of the show as it showcased the genius interplay Sylvester, Rhodes, Wash and Tracy utilized in their live performances. Everybody sang along to the ballad version of You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) at the end of the concert….  These last three songs where much more then just ‘beautiful songs’ in a time of the city’s mourning. There tittle’s say more then enough….

However, Sylvester’s celebratory music was the voice of gay pride. In bars, clubs and concert halls, Martha Wash, Izora Rhodes backed him. The night after his historical sold-out Sylvester Concert at the War Memeorial Opera House on March 11, Mayor Diana Feinstein declared it Sylvester Day and presented him the key to the city. The people where still mourning, but the Queen of Castro was their new hero, if he wasn’t already!

Sylvester performing live, together with the Two Tons Of Fun, ‘Can’t Stop Dancing’

The Opera House gig was recorded, and subsequently released as a live double album, called Living Proof. The album contained a typically eclectic mix of blues, disco, funk and beautiful ballads. Sylvester feld that Living Proof, is “the best representation of what people had been writing about me since the day I started performing. All the energy is there”.

Living Proof present Sylvester at a key point of transition in his career where he is moving more toward his soul and cabaret roots, and paying homage to the disco that took him over the top. It is also a few years before he would go on to define NRG music.

On the double album are two studio recordings: ‘Can’t Stop Dancing’ and ‘In My Fantasy’. ‘Can’t Stop Dancing’, a single released from this album, was a huge hit in the disco clubs.

Sylvester Living Proof

  • Sylvester (lead vocals)
  • Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes (Two Tons of Fun) (background vocals)
  • Jeanie Tracy (background vocals)
  • Sharon Hymes (background vocals)
  • Eric Robinson (background vocals)

The songs:

  • Overture: Grateful, You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), Dance (Disco Heat)
  • Body Strong
  • Blackbird
  • Medley: Could It Be Magic (Eric Robinson), A Song For You
  • Happiness
  • Loverman, (Oh Where Can You Be)
  • Sharing Something Perfect Between Ourselves
  • You Are My Friend
  • Dance (Disco Heat)
  • You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real): dance version/slow gospel version

The band:

  • Patrick Cowley (Synthesizer)
  • Eric Robinson (Keyboards)
  • Michael Finden (Keyboards)
  • Tip Wirrick (Guitar)
  • Bob Kingson (Bass)
  • Kevin Dixon (Drums)
  • Richard Kvistad (Timpani)
  • David Frazier (Percussion)
  • Gus Anthony Flores (Percussion)
  • Dean Boyson (Trumpets)
  • Ross Wilson (Trumpets, Trombones)
  • Dan Reagan (Trombones)
  • Marc Baum (Saxaphones, Flutes)
  • Jay Stolmac (Saxophones, Flutes)
  • and the ‘San Francisco Symphony’

Two months after the concert, on May 21, 1979, thousands of members of San Francisco’s predominantly gay Castro District community took to the streets to protest the lenient sentence received by Supervisor Dan White for the murders of local politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Their anger–combined with the actions of police who arrived to quell the scene–soon boiled over into rioting. The resulting violence affected San Francisco’s LGBT community for decades to come.

Sylvester’s voice helped foster that fight… ‘Everybody is a Star!’

by Jean Amr

 

Tom Ford Unveils Spring Summer 2016 Campaign

TOM_FORD_Spring_Summer_2016

The Seventies and disco soul are HOT! Donna Summer, Sylvester, Amii Stewart, Chic, Martha Wash, Jeanie Tracy, Jody Watley… And now, after hosting together the Golden Globes, Tom Ford has been the first to feature Lady Gaga on both runway and soundtrack as he debuted his Spring/Summer 2016 Womenswear collection in a video that was inspired by the Seventies music TV show ‘Soul Train’ starring Lady Gaga. The American fashion designer has just unveiled a complementing campaign for the same collection. Captured by Nick Knight in Los Angeles, the campaign channels all the energy of Ford’s debut runway film.

While many designers and labels are going places to unveil their new collections, Tom Ford dares to go against the tide of hosting physical runway shows. The American fashion designer has debuted his Spring/Summer 2016 Womenswear collection in a video starring Lady Gaga. He the first to feature Lady Gaga on both runway and soundtrack.

Music: Lady Gaga – ‘I Want Your Love’ (feat. Nile Rodgers), Produced by Rene Arsenault and Billy Mohler for Riot City (weareriotcity.com), mixed by Matty Green

Released in conjunction with Paris Fashion Week, the disco music video features Lady Gaga alongside models Mica Arga, Lexi Bolling, Kayla Scott, Xaio Wen Ju, Valery Kaufman, Aymeline Valade, Lida Fox, Lucky Blue Smith, Alex Dunstan, David Agbodji and Tarun Nijjer. Dancing to the music of Nile Rodgers, the models were captured in a film by Nick Knight.

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TOM_FORD_Women_Spring_Summer_2016_3

I have always loved ‘Soul Train’, which used to be on TV in 70s, as it was much about the clothes as the music. I asked Nile Rodgers to collaborate on a new version of one of his greatest hits from that time, ‘I want your love’, and worked with Gaga to record the vocals.

Tom Ford

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TOM_FORD_Women_Spring_Summer_2016

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Tom Ford is also glad about the recent opening of a flagship in his hometown of Houston, his seventh directly operated unit in the U.S. after New York, Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Dallas and Miami. “Texas is my birthplace, so there is a special significance in opening my second flagship there,” said the designer.

The campaign has launched on Tom Ford website and is also set to break internationally in the March issues of publications including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Vanity Fair.

 

Patrick Cowley Muscle Up

Patrick_Cowley_Muscle_Up

Dark Entries and Honey Soundsystem Records have teamed up again to release another volume of gay porn soundtracks by San Francisco-based musician and producer, Patrick Cowley. Perhaps one of the most revolutionary and influential people in the canon of disco music, Cowley created his own brand of Hi-NRG dance music, ‘The San Francisco Sound’.

Born in Buffalo, NY on October 19, 1950, Patrick moved to San Francisco at the age of 21. He studied at the City College of San Francisco where he founded the Electronic Music Lab. During this time, Patrick, along with his classmates Maurice Tani and Art Adcock, would create radio jingles and electronic pieces using the school’s equipment: first a Putney, then an E-MU System, and finally a Serge synthesizer. He would make experimental soundtracks by blending various types of music and adapting them to the synthesizer.

By the mid-70’s, Patrick’s synthesizer skills landed him a job composing and producing songs for disco superstar Sylvester, including hits like ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’, ‘Dance Disco Heat’ and ‘Stars’. This helped Patrick obtain more work as a remixer and producer. His 18-minute long remix of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and his production work with edgy New Wave band Indoor Life were both of particular note.

By 1981 Patrick had released a string of his own dance 12″ singles, such as ‘Menergy’ and ‘Megatron Man’. That year, he co-founded Megatone Records to release his debut album ‘Megatron Man’. Meanwhile, Patrick was hospitalized and diagnosed with an unknown illness, which would later be named AIDS. Recovering for a spell, in 1982 he composed two more #1 hits, ‘Do You Wanna Funk’ for Sylvester, and ‘Right On Target’ for Paul Parker, as well as a new solo album ‘Mind Warp’. On November 12, 1982, he passed away.

In 1979 Patrick was contacted by John Coletti, owner of famed gay pornc ompany Fox Studio in Los Angeles. Patrick jumped on this offer and sent reels of his college compositions from the 70s to John in LA. Coletti then used a variable speed oscillator to adjust the pitch and speed of Patrick’s songs in-sync with the film scene. ‘Muscle Up’ is a collection of Cowley’s instrumental songs recorded between 1973 and 1980 found in the Fox Studio vaults. This compilation also includes bonus compositions found in the basement of Megatone Records owner John Hedges and the attic of former bandmate Maurice Tani.

Influenced by Tomita, Wendy Carlos, and Giorgio Moroder, Patrick crafted an electronic sound from his collection of synthesizers, percussion, modified guitars, and hand-built equipment. The listener enters a world of forbidden vices evocative of Patrick’s time spent in the bathhouses of San Francisco. The songs on ‘Muscle Up’ are divided into four sides, each showcasing a different facet of Cowley’s work.

Side one opens with an ambient journey through the Amazon. Tension builds on side two, with the instrumental demo version from 1975 of the slow-chugging masterpiece ‘I Need Somebody To Love Tonight’, a song that Cowley revisited four years later with Sylvester. On sides three and four things go interstellar with ecstatic space-funk and galactic workouts.

Featuring 75 minutes of music, this compilation contains soundtrack music from two Fox Studio films, ‘Muscle Up’ and ‘School Daze’, plus additional songs from the same era, never before released on vinyl. The tapes were restored and transferred using the same speed and pitch settings, then remastered for vinyl by George Horn at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA.

Patrick_Cowley_Muscle_Up-back

The vinyl comes housed in a extra wide spine jacket and giant fold-out poster featuring a handmade collage using photography and xerox graphics of classic gay porn imagery from the Fox Studio vaults by Berlin-based artist Gwenael Rattke with an essay from Maurice Tani.

For Patrick’s 65th birthday, Dark Entries and Honey Soundsystem Records present a glimpse into the futuristic world of a young genius. These recordings shine a new light on the experimental side of a disco legend who was taken too soon. His life was cut short on November 12, 1982, when he passed away two weeks after his 32nd birthday.

Come ino the beautiful world of Dark Entries Records.

 

Update:

Patrick Cowley’s Muscle Up is released on cd on August 19, 2017

 

 

 

Lady’s and Gentlemen: Miss Martha Wash!!

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 Love Always! Martha Wash

For over 40 years, Martha Wash has kept people on their feet as the Queen of dance music, dominating the genre with a gospel-infused voice that fueled a string of Top 10 hits.

Martha Wash began her music career as a backing singer for Sylvester. With fellow backing singer Izora Rhodes, she was half of Two Tons of Fun who would later be renamed The Weather Girls. As such, they were responsible for providing much of the firepower behind several of Sylvester’s earliest releases. Especially the voices of Martha and Sylvester fit perfect, and they where an amazing team.

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Sylvester, ‘Stars’ with the hit’s ‘Can’t Stop Dancing’, gay anthem and tittle song ‘Stars’, and the Lieber and Stoller classic ‘I Who Have Nothing’ (Martha Wash recorded the song later together with Luther Vandross as a beautifull ballad).

After Sylvester’s hit album’s Step II, with the mega hits ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’, and his album ‘Stars’ Sylvester wanted something different, something special.

With the San Francisco Symphony, his own band with Patrick Cowley, and Martha Wash, Izora Rhodes, Jeanie Tracy, Sharon Hymes and Eric Robinson as background singers, Sylvester gave a sold out, black tie concert at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, as the first ‘non-classic’ act ever held in an Opera House.

Sylvester Martha Wash Izora Rhodes Jeanie Tracy Two Tons Of Fun Living Proof

Sylvester, ‘Living Proof’, 1979 Live recorded at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, as first ‘non-classic’ act ever. Sylvester absolutely set the stage and paved the way for all the rest … in many many ways.

After singing some of his classics, they perfomed Thelma Houston’s beautiful ballad ‘Sharing Something Perfect Between Ourselves’ a song where Sylvester and Martha’s voices fits perfect together: Sharing something perfect! The song was followed by Patti Labelle’s classic, ‘You Are My Friend’! While singing this song, it was a good reason for Sylvester to introduce his girls: “Everything I èver needed, was here right all the time”. “You see..these girls: Martha and Izora. I met them three years ago”. “We had our first rehearsel in a Volkwagen on our way to Marin county. And these girls have stuck with me all through èverthing yah, and they are here right now, and I want you to know that! You see… I don’t know if you all have noticed or not, but these women could sing yahh! ….Honey, your ear has to bé in your foot! Tonight here these women could sing! They don’t need these dresses! They don’t need that juwellery! They don’t need that hair! These women could sing yah!! Now folks, seeing is believing… right? I told you everything I could tell yeah… now it’s them to entertain……”

And they did!! Three voices that fit sóo perfect! They blew of the roof. Especially Martha Wash showed the world what she could! Not only on record she sounds clear. But live even better!

Sylvester and The Two Tons of Fun

Sylvester, on stage with the Two Tons of Fun. Martha Wash (left) and Izora Rhodes (right).

…and fun they had!

Martha Wash Izora Rhodes Two Tons Of Fun Patrick Cowley

Friends forever: Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes as the Two Tons of Fun. Their first album, with the hits ‘Earth Can Be Like Heaven’ and ‘Get The Feeling’.

Martha Wash Izora Rhodes Two Tons Of Fun Patrick Cowley I Got The Feeling

Typical Patrick Cowley sound ‘Get The Feeling’.

When they left to pursue a career on their own, they achieved success with a handful of disco-oriented tracks, like ‘Earth Can Be Like Heaven’ and ‘Get The Feeling’, both with Partick Cowley, culminating in the 1982 release ‘It’s Rainging Men’, Written and produced by Paul Jabara and who wrote a lot of great dance anthems like Donna Summer’s ‘Last Dance’ and Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand’s ‘No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)’.

‘It’s Raining Men’ a worldwide hit that peaked at No. 2 on the UK Single Chart, No. 1 in Australia, No. 1 on the Euro Hot 100, No. 46 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 34 on the U.S. R&B chart, and No. 1 on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart. It reached the top ten in numerous other countries. ‘It’s Raining Men’ receives regular play in dance clubs and R&B radio to this day: it stands as one of the classic songs of the late-disco and Hi-NRG era. The Weather Girls scored moderate, lesser-known hits with ‘Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man for Christmas)’ and ‘No One Can Love You More Than Me’ in 1985.

 

The Weather Girls Martha Wash Izora Rhodes

The Weather Girls ‘Succes’, 1982

The former Two Tons of Fun: The Weather Girls (Matha Wash and Izora Rhodes) performing life at The Tube their monster hit ‘It’s Raining Men’ And fun they had! (1984).

The 80’s, and 1990’s brought a lot of succes. But also a lot of sadness. In 1982, Patrick Cowley tragically died, during those very early days in the Age of AIDS, not long after he founded Megatone Records. But not only Patrick Cowley died, many friends and people in the industry, passed away in that time. Like singer Frank Loverde (Die Hard Lover) and Paul Jabara (1992). As the panic and reality around the pandemic gained steam-cutting down man after man (and woman!) in its prime during the eighties Martha Wash worked tirelessly on many AIDS benefits. She helps raise much needed funds and awareness about the disease.

Later, when the Weather Girls disbanded, Wash continued to lend her vocals to various dance and ‘house music’ tracks. Several of them became massive pop, R&B and dance hits. She sang lead vocals on all three of Black Box’s U.S. top-forty hits, including the top-ten smashes ‘Everybody Everybody’ and ‘I Don’t Know Anybody Else’ as well as ‘Strike It Up’. But when the music videos for these songs were released, Martha was nowhere to be found, as imposters lip-synched her greatest hits however, she was not featured in any of the music videos as it was customary for Katrin Quinol, a French model, to be used to lip-sync the lyrics. All three of these hit singles (still!) continued to receive regular club-play and mainstream radio airplay as of late April 2010. In addition, Wash sang lead vocals on the lesser-known Black Box tracks, ‘Fantasy’, which charted at No. 5 in Great Britain, ‘Open Your Eyes’, and ‘Hold On’. All six of these songs appear on the Black Box album ‘Dreamland’. Also, she performed uncredited lead vocals on Seduction’s ‘You’re My One And Only (True Love)’, and the lead vocals on C+C Music Factory’s ‘Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)’ which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1991.

C & C Music Factory and Martha Wash performing Do You Wanna Get Funky?

In reaction to her lack of credit on a number of successful dance songs, and exclusion from their accompanied music videos, Wash sued Black Box label RCA to receive proper credit and appropriate royalties as the vocalist on all of these songs. In an out-of-court settlement, made in December 1990, Martha Wash received financial compensation and a recording contract from RCA, as well as a guarantee to be properly credited for her work in recordings. Wash later sued Clivilles and Cole, the producers for C+C Music Factory, along with the C+C record label Sony for ‘fraud’, deceptive packaging and commercial appropriation’, with $500,000 in damages; all parties settled by 1994. As a result of the settlement, Sony made an unprecedented request to MTV to add a disclaimer that credited Wash for vocals and Davis for ‘visualization’ to the ‘Gonna Make You Sweat’ music video, and a performance in the the video clip ‘Do You Wanna Get Funky’.

Under RCA, Wash released her solo debut album in 1992, with a cover photo só beautiful. The album scored three top ten club/dance hits including ‘Carry On’ and ‘Give It to You’, both of which reached number one.

Martha Wash CD

 Martha Wash first solo album.

Martha Wash Carry On

Martha Wash ‘Carry On’.

In 1994, Wash covered Jean Knight’s ‘Mr. Big Stuff” for the soundtrack of the film Disney’s ‘D2: The Mighty Ducks’. Two years later, in 1996, she recorded a cover version of Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’ for the soundtrack of the film ‘The First Wives Club’. Also in 1996 she recorded with a duet with longtime friend Jocelyn Brown the single ‘Keep On Jumping’. And that was what they did in clubs worldwide. A year later there was an other Todd Terry single: ‘Ready For A New Day’ and ‘Somethin Going’ On’. And 1997 she gave us alo a great duet with RuPaul singing…. ‘It’s Raining Men’. It became, again, a mega hit.

Martha Wash and Jocelyn Brown

Always to be found for charity, she was asked for the ‘Small Voices, Sounds Of A Better World’ project, in 1999. The tittle of the song says it all: ‘Listen To The People (Listen To The Sound of a Better World). In 2011 the song was used for the Arabian Spring movement, for more freedom, human rights and democraty. The single contains some great versions of this timeless song.

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Small Voices Calling – Feat. Martha Wash, Listen To The People (Listen To The Sound of a Better World), 1999

Martha Wash, considered a gay icon since The War Memorial Concert in 1979 a few months after the vey Harvey Milk, continues to record new music into the 21st century such as her first new single in more than 5 years, ‘You Lift Me Up’, a fusion of gospel and house, which is the first song produced on her own label, Purple Rose Records in 2005. Wash performed in the opening ceremony of the World’s first ‘Out Games’ in Montreal in July 2006 and she performed at numerous Human Rights Campaign events in the U.S. The gay-themed podcast Gay Pimin’ with Jonny McGovern dedicated an episode to Wash and she obliged them with an extended telephone interview.

In 2006 Wash appeared as a guest on GSN’s ‘I’ve Got A Secret’, and performed ‘It’s Raining Men’ for the all-gay panel.

DJ Tony Moran’s compilation CD ‘The Event’ featured a single featuring Martha entitled ‘Keep Your Body Working’. It reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart for the week ending December 22, 2007.

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Martha Wash ‘I’ve Got You’ (Click photo to enlarge).

Martha Wash ‘Ive Got You (Official Music Video), 2011

She was a performer at the annual Big Gay Day in Brisbane, Australia on March 9, 2008 and she also performed at the Chicago Gay Pride Street Fest on June 28, 2008, at the Nightingale as part of the Birmingham, England, Bank Holiday festival on August 23, 2008, at Washington, DC Capital Pride on June 14, 2009, and at the Opening Ceremony of the NAGAA Gay Softball World Series in Milwaukee, WI on August 31, 2009. In April 2011, the song and accompanying music video for the song ‘I’ve Got You’ were released. On Oct. 1, 2012, she was on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of ‘It’s Raining Men’, where she ‘blew of the roof’ this classic with Paul Schaffer, six back-up singers, three female dancers and three male acrobats descending from the sky.

In January 2013 Martha Wash released a solo album ‘Something Good’. The album, which has largely garnered very positive reviews, opens with the rock-oriented ‘Alright’, then moves on to the ballad, ‘Destiny’. There are a mere eight tracks on this album, which might put off some potential buyers, but every song is a winner. Quality, people! Pure timeless quality! Martha Wash is a two-time Grammy Nominee, known for her distinctive and powerful dramatic soprano voice. Ms. Wash has been dubbed ‘The Queen of Clubland’ due to her ongoing success in the dance music genre. Martha’s fame would have made her mentor, the late disco pioneer Sylvester, proud. Vèry proud!

Martha Wash CD Something Good

Martha Wash ‘Something Good’.

 

For Martha Wash, it certainly is her time to shine!

The ballad ‘Proud’ is particularly heartbreaking and beautiful; the lyrics reminding me a bit of Bette Mider’s ‘To Deserve You’,   Martha’s cover of Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’ is a surprise, and wonderfully covered by old girl. Her second single ‘It’s My Time’ a power ballad, was written by Swedish singer and songwriter Helena Johansson. An amazing beautiful song, wich reflects Martha Wash powerful voice, has already been successfully remixed as a club number from ‘Something Good’. And the title tune, ‘Something Good’, with a light dance tempo, also seems ripe for the remixing.

Martha Wash Proud

In March 2013 she was the special guest for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus in their spring production ‘Big Gay Sing 6: Club Night Out’. Like every year, we could find Martha performing at World Pride, last year summer 2014 she performed in  Toronto, Canada.

Martha Wash ShowSomeLove_1600x1600

First Ladies of Disco: Martha Wash, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King and Linda Clifford launch new single ‘Show Some Love’ (Photo by Mike Ruiz).

2014, Martha Wash, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King and Linda Clifford came together and created in 2015 the show ‘First Ladies of Disco’ inspired by James Arena’s book  ‘First Ladies of Disco: 32 Stars Discuss the Era and Their Singing Careers’, a best seller in the United States, Canada and Europe.They paying tribute to some of the people that are not in the show, but were part of the disco era, like Donna Summer, and even Sylvester. These legendary vocalists are coming together to bring you what will be one of the most talked about shows in dance music history.

Martha Wash, not only one of the greatest voices in modern music. But also one of the most beautiful and loyal persons in the music business. Loyal to her friends, her colleagues, her fans, and countless ‘unknown’, Always working tirelessly on many benefits, and helps to raise much needed funds.

But now: it certainly is her time to shine! Honey, your ear has to bé in your foot!

by Jean Amr

Sylvester, he made us feel mighty real

Sylvester James Soul Blues Disco Queen Yakymour

Sylvester

Today we remember and honors the memory of the Original disco diva Sylvester who would have been 68 today. Sylvester James, Jr. (September 6, 1947 – December 16, 1988), better known as Sylvester, was an American disco and soul singer-songwriter, known for his (vèry) clear high voice (occasionally a rich baritone voice), and flamboyant and androgynous appearance. He was often described as a drag queen, although he repeatedly rejected such a description. He was ‘just’ Sylvester!

There’s little doubt of the lasting cultural influence Sylvester had on Disco and Hi-NRG Dance music of the 70’s and 80’s or how strains of his genius continues to ripple through today’s music. His sound has inspired artists in both style, uncompromising creativity and sampled to fuel their own endeavors.

Sylvester James found his way to San Francisco in 1969 from his hometown of Watts in LA where he’d been raised within the confines of his local AME baptist church choir, and as one of his mother’s most cherished children. His grandmother was the jazz singer Julia Morgan. Living in San Francisco, he performed in a production called Women of the Blues, where he was singing songs of Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and his grandmother.

Upon arriving Sylvester found kindred, outside the box, spirits in San Francisco, most notably with SF’s Queer, gender bending, premier tripping, glitter doused, drag/theatre troupe The Cockettes. His vocal stylings of Blues greats Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday standards brought down the house when he opened for many of the Cockettes wildly chaotic and grand productions. He worked with them until after their infamous New York City debut and disappointingly short Broadway run. Sylvester decided that he wanted to buckle down and get serious. Now was the time to work on his own vision of his music.

In 1972, Sylvester supplied two cuts to Lights Out San Francisco, an album complied by the KSAN radio station and released on the Blue Thumb label. In 1973, Sylvester & his Hot Band released two rock-oriented albums on Blue Thumb (their self-titled debut was also known as Scratch My Flower (due to a gardenia-shaped scratch-and-sniff sticker adhered to the cover).

Sylvester Hot Band Bazaar Scratch My Flower Yakymour

‘Sylvester’s falsetto alone evoked a universe of timeless, idiosyncratic talents and influences’, writes Brian Chin in the package’s liner notes of the ‘Sylvester and the Hot Band’ cd, it’s so true hearing ‘God Bless The Child’ 

Before disco, before ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ and ‘You Are My Friend’ 25-year-old Sylvester emerged from the underground scene in San Francisco with a longhaired rock band, recording two influential albums for Blue Thumb Records. Infused with a love of the blues, a deep emotional connection with Billie Holiday and a flair for flamboyance, the Sylvester and his Hot Band tackled with boundless energy a dizzying sampler of American music, from Neil Young to Ray Charles, from James Taylor to ‘My Country ’Tis Of Thee’. His version of ‘God Bless The Child’ is memorable! A musical treasure! The kind of music he loved more then disco!

Sylvester was a sweet individual who had the talent to take you to the dance floor, then take you to church, and bring you back to the dance floor without you knowing.

Signed a solo act to Fantasy Records in 1977, and working with the production talents of legendary Motown producer Harvey Fuqua. His third album, self titled, ‘Sylvester’, the first with his new, East Bay based label, Fantasy, was vèry well received by critics as his fans.

Sylvester enlisted the talent of two amazing singers whose background were, like Sylvester’s own, deeply rooted in the experience of the Gospel music. Martha Wash and Izora Armstead, collectively became his muses, best friends and back up singers he lovingly dubbed The Two Tons of Fun. These women were the last pieces of the puzzle Sylvester had been searching for to help create the perfect sound that’d thrust him and his music onto the world’s exploding Disco stage.

Two singles were issued from the album. The first single, a self-penned song called ‘Down, Down, Down’, charted at #18 in the Billboard Dance chart. The following single ‘Over and Over’ written by the iconic duo Ashford & Simpson failed to make any impression on the charts, at the time. On the track “I’ve Been Down”, the lead vocals are performed by Izora Rhodes and Martha Wash.

1978 Sylvester Step II

Sylvester, Step II

Later Sylvester collaborated with singer, writer and producer, Patrick Cowley, another, out, popular and rising star of the San Francisco, Hi-NRG, Disco sound scene. Cowley’s synthesizer and Sylvester’s voice proved to be a magical combination, and pushed Sylvester’s sound in an increasingly dance-oriented direction.

This resulted in 1978’s his fourth album, Step II, Sylvester’s perfect alchemy of music, rhythm, talent and timing paid off spawning two big hits ‘You Make Me Feel, Mighty Real’ and ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’. And some amazing beautiful soulful ballads. They spread their glitter-riddled gospel all over the world.

Performing ‘Dance Disco Heat’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’, Ohhh this boy could sing! Sylvester was amazing to work with …really talented, a pro in every sense of the word! Wow…. As Cherrill says “In time they will be regarded as nostalgic reflections of the disco era” …and as we now know they are!

November 27, 1978, San Francisco was mourning of the killing of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone by Dan White, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. That evening, a spontaneous gathering began to form on Castro Street, moving toward City Hall in a candlelight vigil. Their numbers were estimated between 35,000 and 40,000, spanning the width of Market Street, extending the mile and a half (2.4 km) from Castro Street.

The next day, the bodies of George Moscone and Harvey Milk were brought to the City Hall rotunda where mourners paid their respects. Over six thousand mourners attended a service for Mayor Moscone at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Two memorials were held for Milk; a small one at Temple Emanu-El and a more boisterous one at the War Memorial Opera House.

Sylvester and Harvey Milk

Sylvester & Harvey Milk

March 11, 1979,  after two million selling albums, Sylvester, and his friends Martha Wash, Izora Rhodes, Jeanie Tracy, Sharon Hymes and Patrick Cowley, together with a large band, and the complete 26-piece San Francisco Symphony Orchestra blew of the roof of the 3,000-seat sold out War Memorial Opera House. San Francisco where Sylvester wore the moniker of the Queen of the Castro alongside his Disco title, he blends all the colors in his musical palette into a work of remarkable imagination and spirit.

A genuine original, he was the vèry first ‘modern’ artist to perform in a classic Opera House, he was one of that special breed of performers who come fully to life onstage, who have the unfailing instincts to ignite an audience with sophistication, sass, and style. In a business where clones abound, Sylvester was the real thing.

It was the first time èver in music history that a non-classic singer performed, with the whole orkestra, a concert on stage in an Opera House. Sylvester treated attendees to ballads, covers and medleys, in addition to Sylvester’s own hits. His falsetto sound was a mix of male and female voice. Most intriguing about the venue was the sheer range of material being performed. Sylvester covered everything from the Beatles ‘Blackbird’ to Billie Holiday’s ‘Lover Man’ to Barry Manilow’s ‘Could It Be Magic’. Sylvester’s reinterpretations of Thelma Houston’s Sharing Something Perfect Between Ourselves and Patti LaBelle’s ‘You Are My Friend’ where the standout of the show as it showcased the genius interplay Sylvester, Rhodes, Wash and Tracy utilized in their live performances. Everybody sang along to the ballad version of You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) at the end of the concert….  These last three songs where much more then just ‘beautiful songs’ in a time of the city’s mourning. There tittle’s say more then enough….

Sylvester Living Proof

Sylvester, Living Proof, 1979 Live recorded at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, as first ‘non-classic’ act ever. Sylvester absolutely set the stage and paved the way for all the rest … in many many ways.

However, Sylvester’s celebratory music was the voice of gay pride. In bars, clubs and concert halls, Martha Wash, Izora Rhodes backed him. The night after his historical sold-out Sylvester Concert at the War Memeorial Opera House on March 11, Mayor Diana Feinstein declared it Sylvester Day and presented him the key to the city. The people where still mourning, but the Queen of Castro was their new hero, if he wasn’t already!

The Opera House gig was recorded, and subsequently released as a live double album, called Living Proof. The album contained a typically eclectic mix of blues, disco, funk and beautiful ballads. Sylvester feld that Living Proof, is “the best representation of what people had been writing about me since the day I started performing. All the energy is there”.

The voice of dance music Sylvester and the Two Tons of Fun (Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes) performing live ‘Can’t Stop Dancing’

On the double album ‘Living Proof’ are two studio recordings: ‘Can’t Stop Dancing’ and ‘In My Fantasy’. ‘Can’t Stop Dancing’, a single released from this album, was a huge hit in the disco clubs.

1979-sylvester-stars

Sylvester, Stars, 1979 

When Sylvester was invited to appear at the Stars party at the Embarcadero in May 1978 he was inspired to write the song ‘Star (Everybody is one)’ to celebrate the event. Stars was a huge disco extravaganza and set the standard for future parties in San Francisco. When you purchased your ticket for Stars you were given a can. After using a can opener to get to your ticket you also found a poster a brochure and a T-Shirt, quite a package! It was just one month before the Stars party when Sylvester and Patrick Cowley sat down and composed the song for the event.

Two months after the concert, on May 21, 1979, thousands of members of San Francisco’s predominantly gay Castro District community took to the streets to protest the lenient sentence received by Supervisor Dan White for the murders of local politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Their anger–combined with the actions of police who arrived to quell the scene–soon boiled over into rioting. The resulting violence affected San Francisco’s LGBT community for decades to come. Sylvester’s voice helped foster that fight… ‘Everybody is a Star!’. From that moment ‘Star’ became an anthem for the gay community.

Sylvester Bete Midler The Rose Yakymour

Sylvester Bete Midler The Rose Yakymour

1979 brought three Billboard awards and an appearance in the movie, The Rose, starring Bette Midler. Memorable: performing with Bette Midler ‘The Fire Down Below’.

In 1980, Sylvester also reached tabloid headlines after he was arrested on a visit to New York City, accused of being involved in the robbery of several rare coins. After three days of incarceration, he was released on a police bail of $30,000. Sylvester was never charged, and police later admitted their mistake after it was revealed that the real culprit had posed as Sylvester by signing cheques in his name.

Returning to San Francisco after this event, it was here that Sylvester produced his next album for Fantasy Records, Sell My Soul. Largely avoiding disco after the genre had become unpopular following the much publicized Disco Sucks movement, Sell My Soul instead represented a selection of soul-inspired dance tracks. Recorded in two weeks, Sylvester worked largely with backing singers and musicians whom he was unfamiliar with, and regular collaborators Rhodes and Cowley were entirely absent.

1980 Sylvester Sell My Soul

Sylvester Sell My Soul, 1980

Sylvester’s fifth and final album for Fantasy Records was ‘Too Hot to Sleep’, in which he once again eschewed disco for a series of groove soul tunes, ballads, and gospel-style tracks. Missing the Two Tons entirely, Tracy was instead accompanied by a new backing singer, Maurice ‘Mo’ Long, and because the three of them had all grown up in the Church of God in Christ, they decided to refer to themselves as the C.O.G.I.C. Singers. The album also featured a number of tracks in which Sylvester avoided his usual falsetto tones to sing in a baritone voice.

On jazz pianist Herbie Hancock’s thirty-second album ‘Magic Window’ – released on September 29, 1981 – Sylvester sung ‘Magic Number’ also in his ‘low-voice’, together with Jeanie Tracy on backingvocals, Ray Parker Jr. on guitar and Sheila Escovedo on percussion. ‘Magic Number’ was available in several different (long)versions.

1981 Sylvester Too Hot To Sleep

1981 Sylvester Too Hot To Sleep 

1981 Sylvester Too Hot To Sleep 2

1981 Sylvester Too Hot To Sleep (second cover) 

Disco star Sylvester performs on the stairs at Greg’s Blue Dot in Hollywood, a popular gay club back in 1981. He is introduced by owner Greg Hammond

With the success of these world wide hits came more time under the often harsh and conservative public spotlight. Sylvester kept his unabashed flame on high whether performing for the very white, afternoon, talk show, television circuit  or for a writhing throng of his adoring people at San Francisco’s largest dance club, The Trocadero.

Both the Two Tons and Sylvester came to suspect that Fantasy Records had failed to pay them all of the money that they were owed from the sale of their records. Sylvester left Fantasy and in November 1982 he filed a lawsuit against them; it ultimately proved successful in establishing that the company had been withholding money from him totaling $218,112.50. Nevertheless, Fuqua proved unable to pay anything more than $20,000, meaning that Sylvester never saw the majority of the money that was legally owed to him. Sylvester grew to despise Fuqua, and forbade his friends from ever mentioning his name.

They created the so called ‘Megatone’ sound. A true Hit machine with artist like Paul Parker, Jeanie Tracy and Sarah Dash. On many of their hits you hear Sylvester’s voice as backing vocal.

Sylvester eventually left Fantasy Records joining forces with his friend and Dance music mentor, Patrick Crowley and his partner Marty Blecman, at Magatone Records ensconced in the Castro on Noe Street. Sylvester and Megatone created four more albums and the mega huge, infectious dance track ‘Do You Wanna Funk?’

1982 Sylvster All I Need

Sylvester, All I Need, 1982 with the hits ‘Do You Wana Funk’, ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Be With You’ 

Sylvester’s ‘girls’, the Two Ton’s of Fun, transformed as well. The duo was renamed The Weather Girls in 1982 after they released the top-selling single ‘It’s Raining Men’, “Hi, we are your weather girls”. ‘It’s Raining Men’ brought them to mainstream pop attention, and continues, like Sylvester’s songs, to be played the world over.

In 1982, Patrick Crowley tragically died, during those very early days in the Age of AIDS, not long after he founded Megatone Records, and the huge succes of the album ‘All I Need’, his own album ‘Mind Warp’, and Paul Parker’s ‘Too Much To Dream’  with the mega-hit ‘Right On Target’. Sarah Dash her album was sadly not finnished. Only two songs were released, “Low Down Dirty Rythem’ and ‘Lucky Tonight’ together with background vocals by Sylvester and Jeanie Tracy.

1983 Sylvester Call Me

Sylvester, Call Me, 1983

In 1983, Sylvester became a partner of Megatone Records. That year he also brought out his second album with the company, ‘Call Me’, but it was not a big commercial success. Four songs from the album were released as singles, although only ‘Trouble in Paradise’ entered the top 20 of the U.S. dance charts; Sylvester later related that the song was his ‘AIDS message to San Francisco’.”

Sylvester was emotionally moved by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and began helping out at the Rita Rockett Lounge for patients of the disease at the San Francisco General Hospital as well as performing at various benefit concerts to raise money and awareness to combat the spread of the disease. In February 1984 he also performed a ‘One Night Only’ retrospective of his work at the prestigious Castro Theatre.

Sylvester still toured both domestically and in Europe, although he found that demand for his performances was decreasing, and that he was now playing to smaller venues and singing to a pre-recorded tape rather than to a live band as he had in the late 1970s

1984 Sylvester M-1015

Sylvester M-1015, 1984 with dance hits ‘Rock The Box’, Take Me To Heaven’ and the amazingly beautiful ballad ‘Shadow Of A Heart’ 

His next album, entitled ‘M-1015’ (1984), was more frenetic and pumping than his previous releases, having embraced the recently developed genre of Hi-NRG, but it also included elements of electro . The major figures behind the album had been Kessie and Morey Goldstein, and Sylvester himself had not written any of the tracks. The album also contained increasingly sexually explicit lyrics, in particular in the songs ‘How Do You Like Your Love’ and ‘Seks’.

1984 was also the year that he did a duet with singer Earlene Bentley, who worked often with British songwriter, producer, and DJ, Ian Levine, who loved her outrageous, campy vocal style. ‘Stargazing’ became a hit in the United Kingdom. That year, he also entered into a relationship with an architect named Rick Cramner, and together they moved into a new apartment in the hills, where Sylvester decorated his powder room with posters and memorabilia of Divine, the drag queen, actor and singer whom he had briefly known when they were in The Cockettes.

In 1985, he fulfilled a lifelong ambition by working with the singer Aretha Franklin. Doing background vocals before, ione of his dreams came true as he was summoned to sing back-up vocals – together with best-friend Jeanie Tracy – for Aretha Franklin on her Who’s Zoomin’ Who comeback album.

Jim Gilstrap, Vicki Randle, Jeanie Tracy, Sylvester

Jim Gilstrap, Vicki Randle, Jeanie Tracy and Sylvester had a great time during the Aretha sessions, 1985 

Sylvester, vèry rare live performance, ‘Stormy Weather’

That same year, Sylvester’s boyfriend, Rick Cranmer, discovered that he was HIV positive. When he died in September 1987, Sylvester lived in denial about his own status and decided not to get to tested, even when he developed a persistent cough, often a sign of a late-stage HIV infection.

Despite this, Sylvester began work on an album, moved into a new apartment in the Castro, and continued to perform. However with his health deteriorating, he was unable to embark on a full tour.

As the panic and reality around the pandemic gained steam-cutting down man after man in his prime during the eighties Sylvester worked tirelessly on many AIDS benefits, many times together with Joan Rivers, long before others did. He help raise much needed funds and awareness about the disease until his own HIV infection began to take it’s toll.

Sylvester’s final album, ‘Mutual Attraction’ (1986), was produced by Megatone but licensed and released by Warner Bros. On the album, Sylvester had worked with a wide number of collaborators, and included new tracks alongside covers of songs by Stevie Wonder and George Gershwin. Mutual Attraction gave us some great songs, like ‘Living For the City’ (Stevie Wonder), the tittle song ‘Mutual Attraction’, and million seller ‘Someone Like You’, that reached number one on the Billboard dance charts. The 12-inch single of ‘Someone Like You’ featured an original cover art by Keith Haring.

Warner Bros booked him to appear on the New Year’s Eve edition of The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, during which Joan Rivers described him as a drag queen; he corrected her by stating that he was not a drag queen, proclaiming simply “I’m Sylvester!” The appearance was also notable for Sylvester publicly declaring his relationship with Rick Cranmer despite the fact that Cranmer’s family were largely unaware of either the liaison or his sexuality.

1986 Sylvester Mutual Attraction

Sylvester, Mutual Attraction, 1986  

In late 1987, Sylvester was hospitalized for sinus surgery, having been diagnosed with AIDS. On discharge from hospital, he was looked after by his mother and his background singer and friend Jeanie Tracy. However, in May 1988, he was hospitalized again this time due to pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP).

Returning home, Sylvester wrote his will. He would never perform again. Although, he had lost a considerable amount of weight and was unable to walk, his last public appearance was at the Castro Street Fair in October of 1988. The MC on the main stage introduced him pointing up to where he sat on his apartment balcony overlooking the Fair action at Castro and Market. The crowd, numbering in the tens of thousands, gave him a rousing ovation that lasted for nearly 15 minutes. People openly wept realizing, as he frailly waved to the crowd from his wheelchair – being pushed along the entire route by his manager Tim Mckenna, who also had AIDS. McKenna died on January 3, 1990 -, soaking in the love that showered down on him. Most realized in all likelihood this would be the last time any of us would ever see our hero.

Sylvester was open about the fact that he was dying, and continued to give interviews to the media. His main focus was to highlight the impact AIDS was having in the African-American community.

Sylvester died two months later at the age of 41 on December 16th, 1988. Two weeks before Sylvester died, he told his minister of the Love Center Church in East Oakland, that he was ‘ready’. For Thanksgiving 1988, his family spent the holiday with him, although he had developed neuropathy and was increasingly bed-ridden and reliant on morphine. His good friend Jeanie Tracy took care of Sylvester during his last days.

Sylvester had planned his own funeral, insisting that he be dressed in a red kimono and placed in an open-top coffin for the mourners to see, with his friend Yvette Flunder doing his corpse’s makeup. He wanted Jeanie Tracy to sing at his funeral, accompanied by choirs and many flowers. The whole affair took place in his church, the Love Center, with a sermon being provided by Reverend Walter Hawkins. The event was packed, with standing room only, and the coffin was subsequently taken and buried at his family’s plot in Inglewood park Cemetery.

After his death, Megatone Records launched Immortal, the unfinnished album. Pressure from the label to ‘butch up’ his image would result in him attending meetings in full-on drag. A drag photo shoot, which he staged and presented to label heads as a gag (calling it his ‘new album cover’) would later grace the cover of Immortal after Sylvester died; it was the label’s way of paying tribute to his spirit. It contained Sylvester’s final studio recordings and was compiled by Marty Blecman.

1989 Sylvester Immortal

Sylvester, Immortal, 1989 His ‘unfinnished’ last album

Sylvester Megatone Records Yakymour

In the late 1990’s, performance artist Djola Branner (co-founder of the highly influential Pomo Afro Homos troupe) created his acclaimed solo piece and CD Mighty Real around the life of Sylvester. On September 20, 2004 Sylvester’s anthem record, You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame. A year later, on September 19, 2005, Sylvester himself was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievement as an artist. A biography of Sylvester, titled ‘The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, The Music’ was authored by Gamson and published in the same year.

In 2010, the TV series Unsung aired an episode on Sylvester, that was later made available through YouTube. ‘Sylvester: Mighty Real’, an official feature-length documentary on the life and career of Sylvester, entered production; it featured interviews with members of Sylvester’s family and other artists and musicians who have been inspired by, but by 2012 the film’s progress had halted.

In August 2014, an Off-Broadway musical titled ‘Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical’ opened at Theatre At St. Clement’s in New York City. It was co-directed by Kendrell Bowman and Anthony Wayne, the latter of whom also performed as the titular character. Wayne stated that he discovered Sylvester’s story through a television documentary, and was subsequently “inspired by his drive to be who he was regardless of what he went through”, performing a concert of Sylvester’s songs with friends Anastacia McCleskey and Jacqueline B. Arnold as the Two Tons o’ Fun before deciding to begin work on the musical.

In 2014 Sylvester was one of the inaugural honorees in the Rainbow Honor Walk, a walk of fame in San Francisco’s Castro’s neighborhoud noting LGBTQ people who have ‘made significant contributions in their fields’.

Till today, we hear Sylvester’s songs in clubs and on the radio. Many of them are timeless. Also populair by other great artist like Jimmy Somerville and Jason Walker

Jimmy Sommerville performing live ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) at les années bonheur de Patrick Sébastien. He makes us feel mighty real!!

Sylvester and Patrick Cowley’s ‘I Need Somebody To Love Tonight’ sung by ‘wonderboy’ Jason Walker 

I often think about what Sylvester might think about the world we live in today. What would he sing today? How would he feel about Pose on television? How would he feel about the rising of so many black queer artists working of the camera (or microphone) and behind the scenes? How he’d feel that he birthed a generation – black – gay men that dream dreams that are big and ambitious. My hope is he would feel mighty real.

by Jean Amr

Congratulations: Sara Dash

Today, miss Sarah Dash has her 70th birthday. Hearing the name Sarah Dash may not ring a bell by many people, but hearing her songs and special voice, it does. She started as one of the four members of The Odettes, the later: Patti LaBelle And The Bluebells. Later, when one of the girls, Cindy Birdsong left the group, they became: Labelle.

Patti Labelle Nona Hendryx Sarah Dash

Labelle: Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash and Patti LaBelle (Click photo to enlarge).

Labelle ‘Voulez Vouz’ (Lady Marmalade)

For many people Sarah Dash, born on 18.08.1945 in Trenton, New Jersey, is best known as one-third of the otherworldly divas, Labelle. Together with Patti Labelle and Nona Hendryx she blew off many roofs then with ‘Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi, Lady Marmalade’. But we absolutely gag for her solo club classic, ‘Sinner Man’. It makes us get all sassy, hip-shakin’, neck-twistin’ and finger-wavin’. Don’t be touchin’ me! Don’t be holdin’ me!’ Testify, Sister Sarah.

In 1978, Dash released her self-titled debut album, which included the top-ten disco hit, ‘Sinner Man’. She also performed vocals on several stunning ballads, notably ‘You’, and ‘We’re Lovers After All’, and ‘I Can’t Believe Someone Like You Could Really Love Me’, (with a full gospel choir backing); she also had another minor disco hit with ‘(Come and Take) This Candy from Your Baby’. Dash enjoyed much success and television and public appearances with her smash hit ‘Sinner Man’. At this time, she was asked to compose and sing ‘For The Love of You’ (the theme song for the 1980s PBS show ‘Watch Your Mouth’ and ‘Bringing It All Home’. She also guest-starred on an episode of Watch Your Mouth, playing a fictional character, a super diva with an attitude, ‘Tessie Bright’.
Sarah Dash Sinner Man

Sarah Dash self titled ablum from 1978 with the smash hit ‘Sinner Man’

However, on the Kirshner albums, and especially ‘Ooh La La, Sarah Dash’, she was given substandard material to work with, although she wrote ‘I Feel Good Being Me’ for this album. It featured one strong disco track, ‘Ooh La La, Too Soon’, which was used in a Sassoon jeans commercial, and Phyllis Hyman provided backing vocals to the album. But by 1980, disco was dying, and many talented divas such as Dash, Linda Clifford, Pattie Brooks, Cheryl Lynn and even Donna Summer, were at a loss as to how to proceed musically. After releasing one more musically stronger album ‘Close Enough’, for Kirshner, which features standout ballads like ‘Somebody’s Angel’ and ‘God Bless You’,  and the rocker, ‘Paradise’, Dash left Kishner for other opportunities

 

Sarah Dash Low Down Dirty Rhythm Patrick Cowley Megatone Records 12 inch

Sarah Dash ‘Low Down Dirty Rhythem’ with Patrick Cowley

She always loved ‘happy -dance- music, and switched to High-NRG. In 1983, Dash released two dance singles for Megatone Records in San Francisco, both produced by Patrick Cowley. The first, ‘Low Down Dirty Rhythm’ was basically ignored, but the second single ‘Lucky Tonight’ (featuring background vocals by dance superstars Sylvester and Jeanie Tracy), was a real smash hit and dance floor filler, even rising to the #5 spot on Billboards Dance Chart, and was even a Billboard ‘Pick of the Week’. After the succes of ‘Lucky Tonight’, ‘Low Down Dirty Rhythm’ lifted up that succes. Dash was excited about her career again and went on an extensive tour of major U.S. dance clubs. There was supposed to be an album, but because of the untimely death of Cowley, the album was never recorded. Now both songs are availble in their original long versions on the ‘Megatone Records 12 Inch Volume 1’ album

Sarah Dash Patrick Cowley Sylvester Jeanie Tracy Lucky Tonight

Sarah Dash ‘Lucky Tonight’ smash hit with background vocals by Sylvester & Jeanie Tracy was just finnished before Patrick Cowley’s death (Click photo to enlarge).

Dash’s most experimental musical endeavor was the recording she made on the RAP record, ‘Satisfaction’, for High Fidelity Three in 1985. This single was groundbreaking because it was one of the first (if not the first!) rap records that combined a rapper with a vocalist. It was not given much attention at the time, since rap was still in its early stages, but today it is considered a classic, especially with New York DJ’s.

Also during this time, Dash did a great deal of session work for The O’jays, Nile Rogers of Chic (duetting on a ballad with Rodgers, ‘My Love Song for You’ from, ‘The Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove’, a true collector’s item now), The Marshall Tucker Band and David Johansen. In the later 1980s, she teamed up with musician Dr. York for the duet ‘It’s Too Late’
sarah dash you're all i need

Sarah Dash ‘You’re All I Need’

Then in 1988 she was signed to Manhattan Records, (via EMI) and released the album entitled ‘You’re All I Need’. This set included a title track duet with Patti LaBelle; a further duet ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ with Ray, Goodman & Brown; and ‘To Tell You The Truth. The outstanding cuts on the CD are ‘It’s Over’, where Dash really belts out and makes full use of her vocal range, and the sweet ballad, ‘After Love’. Once again, unluckily, EMI decided not to promote the album, and it was met with only moderate success. Dash released another unnoticed dance single in 1990, ‘When You Talk to Me/Manhandled’, with disc jockey Jellybean Benitez.

In the early 1990s, Sarah developed her own one-woman show, “Dash Of Diva,” performing at different club venues, as well as doing a more jazz-flavored set that resulted in various appearances.

Also in 1988, Dash was asked to add her backing vocals to the Rolling Stones ‘Steel Wheels’ album, which eventually led to a tour with her old friend Keith Richards. They became close when Dash was still performing with Patti Labelle and The Blue Bells, who opened for Stones in the early 1960s. She recorded the duet ‘Make No Mistake’ with him, and she took the lead vocal on ‘Time Is On My Side’, showcasing her powerful delivery and vocal range, which, Keith has said in his autobiography, is ‘the best version of that song he’s ever heard’. Keith Richards invited Dash to accompany him on tour: her association with him led to another world tour, a tour with Richards’ X-pensive Winos, appearances on two of his albums, and on The Rolling Stones ‘Steel Wheels’ album in 1989. With Richards, she guested on ‘Live At The Hollywood Palledium’ in 1988, and ‘Main Offender’, in 1992.

Patti Labelle Nona Hyndryx Sarah Dash

Sisters In The Name Of Love (Click to enlarge photo).

Sarah Dash, Nona Hendryx and Patti LaBelle collaborated on each other’s projects over the years following their 1977 split. Patti LaBelle appeared in a couple of albums by Hendryx and Dash attributing background vocals and, in the case of Dash, a duet. In 1991, 15 years after their last recordings together, the group reunited on Patti LaBelle’s ‘Burnin’, recording the funky ‘Release Yourself’, another Hendryx composition. Hendryx and LaBelle co-wrote the latter’s hit, ‘When You’ve Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven)’ on the same album. The group performed their reunion song at The Apollo Theatre in New York, during a televised special there to help Patti LaBelle promote Burnin’.

Patti, Nona and Sarah ‘Release Yourself’ Live in NY, 1991

Over the years, Sarah Dash , Patti LaBelle and Nona Hendryx stayed  very good friends. They are more then that: They are sisters in the name of love. Labelle reunited again in 1995 to record the dance hit, Turn It Out, for the soundtrack to the film, ‘To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar’. The song became their first charted hit in nineteen years peaking at number-one on the Billboard dance singles chart. Labelle would announce a full-fledged reunion in 2005 after the group recorded the Rosa Parks tribute song, ‘Dear Rosa’, featured on Patti LaBelle’s TV show, Living It Up with Patti LaBelle, and after recording, with gospel artist Tye Tribbett, the gospel song, Preaching to the Choir, from the movie of the same name, which LaBelle starred in. The group would sign a recording deal with Verve Records in 2007, and recorded their new album, ‘Back To Now’ throughout late 2007 and 2008, releasing the album that October. Sadly, the Sylvester tribute song You Make Me Feel Mighty Real/Dance was only availble on the iTunes album version.

Nona Hendryx Patti LaBelle Sarah Dash of Labelle Courtesy of Verve Records

Labelle, Nona Hendryx, Patti LaBelle and Sarah Dash (Click photo to enlarge).

That year, the trio went back on tour together which carried through the spring of 2009. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Patti LaBelle explained why she, Dash and Hendryx waited over 32 years to record a full-length album: “You don’t want to half-step something this important….it was about finding the right time and place. We were never ones to do anything on anyone else’s time anyway; we were always unconventional. I still have my glitter boots to prove it.”

Patti Labelle Nona Hyndryx Sarah Dash Concert Apollo

The group performed a triumphant show at the Apollo Theatre in New York City on December 19, 2008 (Click to enlarge photo).

Sarah Dash received a citation from the deputy Mayor of New York City, Ruth Messinger, for her work and efforts in the underprivileged New York City community, where she raised funds for homeless single women and children. With her generous time, Dash collected donations and funds she acquired for these mothers and their children which included clothing, toys, books, after-school activities, excursions to amusement parks, theater in the parks, and food.

Sarah Dash songs and albums:

  • 1971 Labelle – Labelle
  • 1972 Labelle – Moon Shadow
  • 1973 Labelle – Pressure Cookin’
  • 1974 Labelle – Night Birds (with ‘Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi, Lady Marmalade’)
  • 1975 Labelle – Phoenix
  • 1976 Labelle – Chameleon
  • 1978 Sarah Dash – Sarah Dash (album)
  • 1980 Sarah Dash – Oh La La Sarah Dash (album)
  • 1981 Sarah Dash – Close Enough (album)
  • 1983 Sarah Dash/Patrick Cowley – Lucky Tonight
  • 1983 Sarah Dash/Patrick Cowley – Low Down Dirty Rhythm
  • 1983 Sarah Dash/Nile Rodgers – My Love Song For You (From the Nile Rodgers album “Adventures In The Land Of The Good Groove
  • 1985 Sarah Dash/Dr. York – ‘It’s To Late’
  • 1985 Sarah Dash/High Fidelity Three – ‘Never Satisfied’
  • 1988 Sarah Dash – ‘All I Need’ (album)
  • 1988 Sarah Dash/Patti LaBelle – ‘Your’re All I Need’
  • 1989 Sarah Dash – ‘Feel Good’
  • 1990 Sarah Dash/John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez – ‘When You Talk To Me’
  • 1991 Labelle – ‘Release Yourself’ (From the Patti LaBelle album ‘Burning’)
  • 1995 Labelle – ‘Turn It Out’ (Soundtrack ‘To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar)
  • 2005 Labelle – ‘Dear Rosa’ (Rosa Parks tribute song)
  • 2007 Labelle/Tye Tribbiett – ‘Preaching to the Choir’
  • 2008 Labelle – ‘Back To Now’
  • 2008 LaBelle – ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ (Sylvester tribute)
  • 2011 Sarah Dash/Ari Gold – ‘Sparkle’
  • 2014 Sarah Dash – ‘I’m Still Here’

Today it’s miss Sarah Dash’s birthday. And she is still here! Like the tittle of her latest fantastic album ‘I’m Still Here’ proves!!

Sarah Dash Labelle

Sarah Dash: Happy Birthday!! Love Always! (Click to enlarge photo).

by Jean Amr

 

I Need Somebody To Love Tonight by Sylvester sung by Jason Walker

Ever heard him sing ‘At Last’ by Etta James? Like ‘At Last’, ‘I Need Somebody To Love Tonight’ gave me chills! Jason Walker is a male vocalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has an amazing voice range! Jason has one of the most beautiful and soulful voices I ever heard! He is not only talent personified, he is as sweet as down to earth as they come!

‘I Need Somebody To Love Tonight’ sung by Sylvester was originally produced in 1975 by synth wizard and under-recognized genius Patrick Cowley, the song repetitive synth-bass, padded drums, and cosmic sound effects eave around each other in mesmerizing, midtempo fashion. Tension builds on slow-chugging masterpiece ‘I Need Somebody To Love Tonight’, a song that Cowley revisited four years later with Sylvester for his album ‘Stars’.

‘I Need Somebody To Love Tonight’ was recorded live at The Gershwin Hotel NYC, December 2010. Jason Walker performed for a small group of people, also songs like ‘I am Changing’. As a true Sylvester fan myself, and a great lover of this song, Mr.Walker, let me just say…’Very well done’…  You truly worked it…  And as Sylvester would say… ‘Don’t Stop’.

Don’t forget to check out Jason on his official website here. You can also be his friend on Twitter and/or FaceBook, and get the updates as they happen. And if you haven’t already, please consider making an investment in your listening pleasure and check out Jason’s Kickstarter page here. With a pledge of $10, $25, $50 or more, you can pre-order a new album, and get many other benefits you can read about on that page.