Sylvester | Mighty Real | Audio

Sylvester (1946–1988) was an unabashedly flamboyant, cross-dressing, and cross-genre recording artist who took the 70s by storm in disco, then moved back to his roots in gospel and soul. in the 80s. Though raised as a member of a devout Pentecostal family, Sylvester was "out" loud and proud, even in his youth. He would never forget the rich roots of the music he learned and loved in his church choir. A true vocal prodigy as a child, from the age of 13 on, his vocal, fashion and life style would develop over time to express his own unique vocal and theatrical genius. Yet despite his outstanding voice, he was also subject to heartbreaking bigotry and ignorance from his church and his original family, which would blessedly become replaced by his grandmother's loving acceptance and a community that embraced him spiritually and musically in the last decade of his life. Sylvester broke through many barriers simply by being true to himself as a person and as an artist. He was, simply, mighty real.

His early performing career was a career bust but a musical bonanza, filled with groups with catchy names like "The Disquotays," "The Cockettes" and "Sylvester and The Hot Band," through which he made life long musical connections and friendships and through which he expanded and perfected his repertoire to include blues, jazz, classical R&B, rock, soul, and of course, his beloved gospel music. In the mid-70s Sylvester teamed up with two friends and backup signers - Izora Rhodes and Martha Walsh (who later became famously known as "Two Tons of Fun") - and his performing and recording career took off. Five of his songs became gold record hits, selling more than 500,000 copies, and one went platinum, selling more than one million records. Among Sylvester's hits were ''Dance (Disco Heat)'' in 1978, which sold more than a million records; ''You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)'' in 1979; ''Do You Wanna Funk?'' in 1982, and ''Someone Like You'' in 1987, all of which topped 500,000 in sales. His soulful, glam performance style influenced future stars like the Manhattan Transfer, Bette Midler and the Pointer Sisters. The BBC revived interest in Sylvester with a retrospective in 2014.

Here we see the evolution of Sylvester as a recording artist and a person through music from his original label, Fantasy Records. And we have the great fun of seeing him perform "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" in all his sartorial glory.

Photo credits | Portfolio cover image: Billboard | Video cover image: BBC | all others images: Courtesy of Concord Music Group, Inc.

audio Audio | I Been Down | Sylvester 1977
audio Audio | You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) | Sylvester 1978
audio Audio | Dance (Disco Heat) | Sylvester 1978
audio Audio | Sharing Something Perfect Between Ourselves | Sylvester 1979
audio Audio | Could It Be Magic & Song to You (Medley) | Sylvester 1979
audio Audio | Body Strong | Sylvester 1979