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 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 later, 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

 

 

 

Paul Jabara: Last Dance

 

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Today, twentythree years ago, Paul Jabara died. A name that doesn’t say anything maybe to our youngsters, but hearing songs as ‘It’s Raining Men’ ‘Last Dance’ and ‘No More Tear’s (Enough is Enough)’ would ring a bell…

He Paul Frederick Jabara, was born in Brooklyn, New York on Januari 31, 1948. He was an American actor, singer, and songwriter of Lebanese ancestry, born in Brooklyn, New York City.  – Jabara’s cousin and close friend Jad Azkoul is also a Lebanese-American musician specialising in classical guitar.

Paul Jabara was the only son of Olga and Sam Jabara and was the youngest of three children and had two older sisters, Delores and Claudette. His love of music originated almost from birth, and he entertained his family and their friends as soon as he learned to talk. This multi-talented phenomenon began his career a teenager modeling for magazines and appearing in television commercials. As a teenager, he also auditioned for The Sound of Music and was offered a part in the road company, but his parents wouldn’t allow him to go. His first big break came when he was offered a feature role in the original cast of Hair.

 

Paul Jabara in 'The Day Of The Locust',

Impressionist Paul Jabara cuddles Donald Sutherland as Karen Black and William Atherton are amused in a scene from the film ‘The Day Of The Locust’, 1974. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

In the 1970’s, Jabara was in the Original cast of the stage musicals ‘Hair’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. He took over the role of Frank-N-Furter in the Los Angeles Production of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ when Tim Curry left the production to film the movie version in England. He appeard in John Schlesinger’s 1969 film ‘Midnight Cowboy’, as one of the attendees at the counterculture party, and in Schlesinger’s 1975 film ‘The Day of The Locust, where he sang the song ‘Hot Voo-Doo’.

But it wasn’t only acting he did. Jabara released his first album, ‘Shut Out’ in 1977. Jabara’s solo albums on the legendary disco label Casablance Records include three duets with Donna Summer;  ‘Shut Out’ (1977), ‘Something’s Missing (In My Life)’ (1978) and ‘Never Lose Your Sense Of Humor’ (1979).

 

Paul Jabara and Donna Summer ‘Something’s Missing (In My Life)’ This power ballad has also been recorded by Karen Carpenter, Freda Payne and Australian pop royalty Marcia Hines… It’s recorded in several versions, one of them with Summer is featured on Jabara’s CD ‘Greatest Hits and Misses’.

In the 1978 film ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ he played the role of Carl, the lovelorn and nearsighted disco goer, and he also contributed as a singer on two tracks on the original soundtrack album, with the songs ‘Disco Queen’ and ‘Trapped In A Stairway’.

 

Thank God Its Friday Donna Summer Paul Jabara Thelma Houston Diana Ross Movie

Thank God It’s Friday album cover.

 

Donna Summer Last Dance Thank God It's Friday

Donna Summer in ‘Thank God It’s Friday’.

Paul Jabara wrote Donna Summer’s ‘Last Dance’ from ‘Thank God It’s Friday'(1978) and Barbra Streisand’s song ‘The Main Event/Fight’ from the album ‘The Main Event’ (1979).

‘Last Dance’, featured in the film ‘Thank God Its Friday’, earned Jabara a Grammy Award and the 1978 Academy Award for Best Song. Clearly, his music defined an era and continues to keep us all dancing.

paul-jabara-donna-summer

In 1979, Jabara won both Grammy Award for Best R&B Song and the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song performed by Donna Summer, ‘Last Dance’.

 

Paul Jabara The Third Album

Paul Jabara ‘The Third’ album contains the duet with Donna Summer ‘Never Lose Your Sense Of Humor’, a great song with the typical Jabara/Summer sound!

 

Paul Jabara Donna Summer Never Lose Your Sense Of Humor

Paul Jabara and Donna Summer ‘Never Lose Your Sense of Humor’.

 

Donna Summer Barbra Streisand No More Tears Enough Is Enough Paul Jabara Francesco Scavullo

Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand ‘No More Tears Enough Is Enough’ another monster hit for Paul Jabara (Photo’s by Francesco Scavullo).

1979 was an amazing year for Jabara and Summer. Disco’s big finish in 1979, who could ask for a bigger finish of the greatest era of dance music? The ‘Disco Queen’ and Barbara Streisand together working Paul Jabara’s magic together. This cut was a power house, anyone who experienced the energy that this cut created when it was released will never question it’s reign. Casablanca Records has definitely made a place in music history with this on. The song was a hùge Platinum-certified, #1 Billboard hit.

 

At right, songwriter Paul Jabara (1948-1992), at the premiere of Bette Midler's movie, THE ROSE, 1979

At right, songwriter Paul Jabara, at the premiere of Bette Midler’s movie, ‘The Rose’, 1979 

1981 Jabara starred in yet another John Schlesinger film, the comedy ‘Honky Tonky Freeway’ as truck driver/songwriter T. J. Tupus, hauling lions and a rhino.

Composing myriad hit songs, his credits include many platinum and gold records. He is also known for: ‘Jinxed’ (1981), written for Bette Midler and her movie of the same name, but it was never commercially released. ‘Work That Body’ (1982) a modest hit for Diana Ross. The hit single is included on her Platinum album ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love’.

He co-wrote The Weather Girls (Sylvester’s former background girls, the Two Tons of Fun: Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes) monster hit ‘It’s Raining Men’ together with Paul Shaffer, which was also recorded by Geri Halliwell and a worldwide hit for the second time in 2001.

The former Two Tons of Fun: The Weather Girls (Matha Wash and Izora Rhodes) with their monster hit ‘It’s Raining Men’ (1984).

Jabara’s album ‘Paul Jabara & Friends’, released in 1983, features guest vocals by a then 20-year-old Whitney Houston on Eternal Love. It also includes the song ‘It’s Raining Men’. An other song Jabara wrote to perform include ‘  Two Lovers’ for Julio Iglesias (1984).

Jabara received many awards for his work throughout his lifetime. Jabara had been honored for creativity and excellence winning numerous awards including The Oscar; Grammy; Golden Globe; People’s Choice Award; Your Choice for the Oscar and many others giving him global recognition.

It has been reported that Jabara co-founded the Red Ribbon Project in 1991, and was credited with conceiving and distributing the first AIDS Red Ribbons. This highly recognized symbol spawned the use of different colored ribbons to quickly raise awareness to other causes and is widely used today.

Paul Jabara died of complications from Aids at the age of 44 in Los Angeles on September 29, 1992. He is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. As a tribute at his memorial service, his friends and collaborators got together and performed a song he wrote entitled, We’re Gonna Win. Later recorded by long-time friend Donna Summer.

Martha Wash, one of the original members of The Weather Girls, re-recorded several years later, together with drag supermodel RuPaul the It’s Raining Men. Again, it became a huge hit! Like it also was for ex-Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell.

 

A Hot Jabara Night 2012 Paul Donna Summer

‘A Hot Jabara Summer Night’ 2012

In 2005, a workshop of a musical entitled Last Dance played New York City. It was a musical assembled from Jabara’s well known disco songs and told the story of a modern day teenager who goes back in time to spend one night at Studio 54.

Paul Jabara’s music lives on. Not only ‘the big names’ in the industry still performing his songs. Every season of Idols or .. Got Talent, we can here some of his songs performed by the ‘new’ artist. We hear his music still in films, and in clubs, and sometimes in the most fantastic long versions or remixes. Yes, it’s still a Hot Jabara Summer Night then. And it will always be……

by Jean Amr

 

 

 

 

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.

1979-sylvester-stars

 

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.

Small Voices Martha Wash CD Listen To The People

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.

Martha Wash CD I've Got You

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, vèry rare live performance, ‘Stormy Weather’

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. Patrick later co-founded the much respected Megatone Records, along with Marty Blecman. 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.

Head way came when Sylvester and the boys 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.

1978 Sylvester Step II

Sylvester, Step II (Click photo to enlarge)

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.

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!

When Sylvester was invited to appear at the Stars party at the Embarcadero in May 1978 he was inspired to write the song Stars 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.

1979-sylvester-stars

Sylvester, Stars, 1979 

In 1979, after two million selling albums, Sylvester and friends Marha Wash, Izora Rhodes, Jeanie Tracy, Patrick Cowley performed live at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. 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. Singing not only his hitsongs, but also some beautiful standards, like Thelma Houston’s beautiful ‘Sharing Something Perfect Between Ourselves’. Recorded live, the album contains many live songs from the concert, and also two studio recordings: Can’t Stop Dancing and In My Fantasy.

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.

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

 

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’.

 

1980 Sylvester Sell My Soul

Sylvester Sell My Soul, 1980

 

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.

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, as The Weather Girls, whose smash hit, ‘It’s Raining Men’ 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

 

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’ 

 

Jim Gilstrap, Vicki Randle, Jeanie Tracy, Sylvester

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

Doing background vocals before, in 1985, one 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.

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.

His sole Warner Bros. album was Mutual Attraction in 1986 and gave us some great songs, like the million sellers ‘Someone Like You’, ‘Sooner or Later’ and the tittle song ‘Mutual Attraction’. The 12-inch single of ‘Somene Like You’ featured an Original cover art by Keith Haring.

1986 Sylvester Mutual Attraction

Sylvester, Mutual Attraction, 1986  

Sylvester’s 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, 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 died two months later at the age of 41 on December 16th, 1988. His good friend Jeanie Tracy took care of Sylvester during his last days.

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.

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. In 2005, a biography written by Joshua Gamson and titled The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, The music,

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 

by Jean Amr