Wipe Off The Dust: Always Under Phyllis Hyman's Spell

Monday, August 24, 2009

If, by some bizarre fate, I was approached by a Black Magic Weirdo and he gave me the choice of what singing voice I would like to possess, I would not flinch at my decision to say: "Phyllis Hyman". What?! Not Mariah? Not Whitney? Not the Queen of Soul A-R-E-T-H-A? Nope. PH, baby, PH all the way. For the last couple of weeks, I've become a bit entranced by the rich, velvety and peerless tone of the late Miss Hyman. Not that I was naive to her vocal abilities all this time, as I've listened to Miss Hyman as a child, but if you are a music consumer like I, you know that some artists/bands take up more of your ear time because they have that "something" that makes you want to go back for more. Phyllis Hyman has been one of those investments ever since I heard her 1979 single, "You Know How To Love Me" and heard that booming, determined and pitch perfect vocal tone draping over the song's disco swirl exterior, I have been going back for seconds.

Don't feel inferior if you aren't familiar with Phyllis' story or even her music. She's one of the immensely talented soul starlets that sometimes gets lost in the cracks, due to bigger diva names snuffing her out in conversation and also because her music wasn't what some considered "mainstream" enough to stay strong on the charts. We know how that particular flute plays, as we see it with some of today's artists that don't get much shine, but it should be known that if circumstances had been different, Whitney Houston might not have worked out the way she did. How is that? History lesson if I must. In the late 70's to early 80's, Phyllis was Arista's (and music executive Clive Davis') diva project but when Arista and Davis collectively "feeling" Phyllis' music direction, they passed and zoomed in on the future golden voiced diva named Whitney Houston. Later on in the mid-80's Arista would fire Hyman from the label after being dissatisfied with Hyman's output. This situation among other personal troubles would haunt Hyman up to the end of her life. Hyman would tragically take her own life in 1995, after suffering with bouts of depression. The channel, TVOne did a great piece on her for their fantastic biography show, Unsung and if you're like me where your cable provider doesn't offer this fab channel (*waves fist in air and cusses out Charter cable*), you can watch it here, if you want to learn more about Phyllis' musical career.

Amidst the scruples of her life, the constant was always the music and her stellar vocal abilities. Phyllis has a hearty catalog of tunes that will forever be revered as soul classics that still sound just as crisp as when they were placed on the black wax. She's best known for the thundering and romantic ballads, like "Somewhere In My Lifetime", "Can't We Fall In Love Again" and "Meet Me On The Moon", as well as her work with producer/musician Norman Conners on her breakout track, "Betcha By Golly Wow", a cover of a 1971 Stylistics hit. Probably her most famous soul burner resides in the brooding 1986 single, "Living All Alone" which haunts every corner of the mind with just one listen. Its truly one of her finest recordings as it provokes the yearn for second chances at love, something we can all attest to feeling. Here is an exceptional vocal performance of the song from a 1980's talk show...this is live singing folks:


Good, right?

Phyllis graced the theatrical stage as well, as in the early 80's she performed in the musical, Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies alongside actors Gregory Hines and Hinton Battle. Hyman would receive a Tony Award nomination for her supporting role in the musical. Watch as Phyllis puts us in a "Sentimental Mood"....



While these two performances just scratch the surface of Phyllis Hyman's musical and vocal collage, its easy to see just from these morsels that Hyman was a tried and true songstress, one that showed such raw diva power, and one who was taken from us way too soon.

5 comments:

  1. PH is definitely my fave vocalist of all time. I always said that if I was to act in a film I would want to be in her biography.

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  2. ITS OUR FIRST TIME TOGETHER!

    AND I WANNA MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION ON YOU!!!


    ITS OUR FIRST TIME TOGETHER!!

    WANNA MAKE SURE EVERYTHING'S ALRIGHT!
    WANNA MAKE SURE I GOT THE CANDLE LIGHT!
    WANNA MAKE SURE YA GOT EVERYTHING YA NEED!

    LOVE LIVING ALL ALONE ALBUM! YES! AND I AM SO HAPPY BECAUSE I JUST CAME ACROSS HER VERSION OF "SOUVENIRS"!!!!

    A HIT FROM JENNY BURTON'S "SOUVENIRS" ALBUM 1986. ALSO JEN WHEN ARE YOU GONNA GO CHECK MY BLOG OUT SO I CAN INTERVIEW YOU SOON!

    PLEASE DO! IM SURE YOU WOULD LOVE IT BABE!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Phyllis Hyman is definitely a legend. Her voice was so unique and beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh wow! Fabulous post. I love Phyllis! She was such a beautiful spirit and that VOICE! It's just annoying that her music is so hard to find. I'm dying for those early 80s jams. What a diva!

    ReplyDelete

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