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  1. #1

    25 Years Ago Today We Lost Phyllis Hyman

    On June 30, 1995 the terrible news came out that the incomparable Phyllis Hyman had died in New York City shortly before she was scheduled to take the stage at the legendary Apollo Theater. She had suffered from bi-polar issues for quite some time but of course no one will ever know exactly what happened that day.

    For those of you who were fans and already have her in your collection, I hope you will salute her today by listening to some of her music and remembering where you may have been in your life back then. For me, I can remember it just like yesterday, right down to where I was living at the time and even which room I was in when I read the news.

    As for those of you who may have never heard of her either back then or now, I would encourage you through the clip I have attached or the many others that you can find on YouTube, to take some time and explore her extraordinary talent.

    Phyllis was very difficult to categorize. I have seen her of course in R & B sections on the shelves, I have seen her in the Jazz bins, or she was equally adept at pop songs. But the most consistent thing about her was that she sang about pain and heartache as well or better than anyone who has ever come along before or since. (In my day, we called them "torch singers.)"

    If I had to recommend specific songs in that vein, it would be "I Refuse to Be Lonely" (the title song of her posthumous album), as well as "Just Another Face in the Crowd", "Give Me One Good Reason to Stay," "Living All Alone," and of course the real tearjerker that I have linked for you today. (I won't name it just to make you listen but it was in my opinion the CONSUMMATE Phyllis Hyman song about lost love.)

    However, she was by no means one-dimensional in her music, and she could also deliver a foot-stomping good time and sing of joy and celebration. So if and when you want to hear that side of her, check out songs like "You Know How to Love Me," "You Sure Look Good to Me," and her number one R & B dance hit "Don't Wanna Change the World."

    Any way you slice it, she was a remarkable singer and it was so sad that her demons overtook her that day. One week from today would have been her 71st birthday if she were still with us, and considering what some of her peers (Dionne, Gladys, Patti, etc.) have continued to give us all these years, it makes it that much sadder to realize how much more Phyllis might have had to offer.

    I know I have overdone it with this tribute, especially considering how much other trouble and heartache we have going on in the world at the moment. But maybe someday we can put all of that behind us. For now I felt as if I just HAD to post this memory of this incredible songstress.

    And now, here is Phyllis at her best.............


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whE7tUGOBrs
    Last edited by daviddesper; 06-30-2020 at 12:30 AM.

  2. #2
    Great post,i've been thinking about the beautiful ultra talented ms.hyman for some time,as you stated she could sing anything,take any song and make it her own,i certainly miss her and will always cherish her talent.

  3. #3
    I remember driving around late one night outside of Boston that summer when I heard the DJ say in honor of the late Phyllis Hyman who we lost a month ago. She had been dead a full month before I had even heard about it. I was shocked and saddened. RIP Phyllis.

  4. #4

  5. #5
    I will never forget that day; my bestie called me, crushed after having shared a passion for her with me, and I don't think he's over it yet. I was able to attend the memorial service here in NYC at St. Peter's Church. I stood in the balcony like a sardine, taking in the musical and spoken tributes by everyone from Roberta Flack to her brothers and sisters. What a senseless, aching loss.

  6. #6
    I will be remembering Phyllis today by playing her music. I recommend for everyone to check out her Unsung doc, as well as Jason A. Michael's book, "Strength of a Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story".

  7. #7
    Wow that 25 years have flown by. I remember telling a friend of mine at the time. She'd no idea who I was talking about. I was trying to explain Phyllis was in Aretha company when it came to the list of greats. Its great to find forums like this with people of the same opinions. I read the Strength of a Woman a couple of years ago. I found it quite traumatic in parts and it brought back the memory of her passing in the chapter about her leaving us. I'd recommend the book for genuine fans. Not disagreeing with any of the choices so far, but would like to add "Don't tell me, tell her" "I found love" and "Walk away" to the list. She'll never be forgotten.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    I remember driving around late one night outside of Boston that summer when I heard the DJ say in honor of the late Phyllis Hyman who we lost a month ago. She had been dead a full month before I had even heard about it. I was shocked and saddened. RIP Phyllis.
    I'm still saddened when I hear her music.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by daviddesper View Post
    Any way you slice it, she was a remarkable singer and it was so sad that her demons overtook her that day. One week from today would have been her 71st birthday if she were still with us, and considering what some of her peers (Dionne, Gladys, Patti, etc.) have continued to give us all these years, it makes it that much sadder to realize how much more Phyllis might have had to offer.

    I know I have overdone it with this tribute...
    Your tribute to Phyllis is nicely done and appreciated. You've captured what many of us feel about the woman and her unique talent. Indeed, for those of us who loved her music, we probably can remember where we were when we heard the sad news.

    Phyllis had the kind of voice that could have endured spectacularly over time. Like a Gladys Knight or a Shirley Bassey, she would have lost none of the fullness or richness of her instrument. With time, she would have become a more disciplined, captivating performer and an even more astonishing interpreter -- no other voice can convey the devastation of lost love like Phyllis. As you've noted, in her relatively brief life she'd already ranked among the best.

    She was so loved and she was on the cusp of receiving the kind of recognition she longed for and deserved. She DEFINITELY had Grammys in her future. Her bi-polar diagnosis led to greater understanding of why she took her life, but the loss is no less tragic.

  10. #10
    Sounds like some of you had soooooooo much more knowledge and inside information that I did, so thanks for sharing it. One thought that crossed my mind back at the time was wondering whether or not the instantaneous career of Whitney Houston took its toll on Phyllis. Perhaps being label-mates she was jealous of Whitney's superstardom and thought it could have/should have been her. Did anyone else ever hear anything like that?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by daviddesper View Post
    Sounds like some of you had soooooooo much more knowledge and inside information that I did, so thanks for sharing it. One thought that crossed my mind back at the time was wondering whether or not the instantaneous career of Whitney Houston took its toll on Phyllis. Perhaps being label-mates she was jealous of Whitney's superstardom and thought it could have/should have been her. Did anyone else ever hear anything like that?
    The scuttlebutt was that Clive back-burnered Phyllis for Angela Bofill, then, as Angela's Arista output progressively languished commercially, enter Whitney.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by sansradio View Post
    The scuttlebutt was that Clive back-burnered Phyllis for Angela Bofill, then, as Angela's Arista output progressively languished commercially, enter Whitney.
    Whitney shut it down for all times!

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    Whitney shut it down for all times!
    Indeed. And yet, sadly, could not outrun her own demons.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by sansradio View Post
    The scuttlebutt was that Clive back-burnered Phyllis for Angela Bofill, then, as Angela's Arista output progressively languished commercially, enter Whitney.
    Angela Bofill is wonderful and a great artist.

    What we learned about Phyllis years after she was gone is that she suffered from mental illness. Even those who loved her attest that it made her temperamental, moody and intransigent. She was "back-burnered" because she could not get with Clive's program. It created mutual contempt. Clive is a man of questionable virtue and motivations. However, I believe he recognized Phyllis Hyman's unique talent and wanted to make her a true commercial star. It would have happened if she had been more agreeable -- and not self-sabotaged.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Guy View Post
    Angela Bofill is wonderful and a great artist.

    What we learned about Phyllis years after she was gone is that she suffered from mental illness. Even those who loved her attest that it made her temperamental, moody and intransigent. She was "back-burnered" because she could not get with Clive's program. It created mutual contempt. Clive is a man of questionable virtue and motivations. However, I believe he recognized Phyllis Hyman's unique talent and wanted to make her a true commercial star. It would have happened if she had been more agreeable -- and not self-sabotaged.
    All too true. The lady's demons were definitely a factor, but we can't discount the quality of material she was given a few albums in [notably, the questionable dance tracks on Goddess of Love, for example (she hated them!), which was partially saved only by Thom Bell's sterling contributions, IMO]. Clive's inattention plus her mental state created the perfect storm. Thankfully, her final albums with EMI and Philly/Zoo/BMG restored her to her rightful glory as a bona fide jazzy torch stylist.

  16. #16
    This is my favorite Phyllis Hyman track. Its sentiments apply well to what is going on in the world with the virus, especially in the US. I so wish the words of this song had been enough to keep Phyllis battling.

    I hope you’ll play the entire song. Be well.
    -Jim

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6ydGOasasXQ

  17. #17
    sansradio:

    Thanks for touching upon another observation I would have. I thought Riding the Tiger, which I am guessing to be one of the tracks you referenced, was sooooooo out of character for her. However, I will give that album credit for one thing........it was one of her most attractive covers ever.

    Although Clive is a proven genius, he did have his sometimes forceful instincts about artists, and where they should go with their music. There is only one for whom I would question the direction that was taken, but I will start another thread sometime about that so as to keep this focus on Phyllis.

  18. #18
    For my tastes , Phyllis Hyman is the standout voice that most wrongly got denied a proper taste of fame. Hard to believe that her distinctive sound never found its way to the Top 40. I personally feel that YOU KNOW HOW TO LOVE ME should have been at a minimum , a Top Ten song, yet it failed to even make the Hot 100.(!) Her highest charting LP likewise wasn't able to break into the POP LP Top 40.

    Entering her forties , she titled her LP THE PRIME OF MY LIFE , thus perhaps trying to convince herself that her turn was coming at any moment. Despite containing a #1 R&B hit , that album was her worst pop performer of her career.
    Must have been heart wrenching to witness the careers of others blossom, especially the up and coming younger crowd and to sense your time was slipping away. Four more years would then pass without a release to keep her current.

    "I'm tired. I'm tired." she would state in her farewell.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Must have been heart wrenching to witness the careers of others blossom, especially the up and coming younger crowd and to sense your time was slipping away. Four more years would then pass without a release to keep her current.

    "I'm tired. I'm tired." she would state in her farewell.
    That's a solid and very true assessment, Boogiedown. The industry was especially tough on women, and even tougher on black women. As someone who was equally known for being extremely beautiful and extremely talented, I think she really felt the pressures of growing older. She used to joke about her weight in her latter years, but I think those jokes were sadly based in her own deficient view of herself. She was still very much a beautiful woman but she couldn't see it and she didn't feel valued or appreciated. Of course, much of that inner turmoil sadly came from her own mental illness and addictions. If only she had been capable to feel all of the love that people really had for her, and if she could have only held that same loving space for herself. These situations are very difficult and sad, as it's nearly impossible to bring someone out of that, when they are battling their own mental illness. Unfortunately I've seen this happen with some in my own family. The thing to be said about those who have sadly lost that fight is that we can only hope that they can finally now see everything clearly and peacefully. She is still so dearly loved and remembered.

  20. #20
    My favorite singer my idol

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    This is a wonderfully joyous song (betcha by golly) with joyous lyrics, yet there is no joy in Phyllis’ voice. She sings it like it was a dirge, a mournful song.
    Last edited by Circa 1824; Yesterday at 01:08 PM.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Circa 1824 View Post
    This is a wonderfully joyous song with joyous lyrics, yet there is no joy in Phyllis’ voice. She sings it like it was a dirge, a mournful song.
    Wow!! I thought it was me! You are spot-on.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by nativeNY63 View Post
    Wow!! I thought it was me! You are spot-on.
    I usually am. lololol

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Circa 1824 View Post
    This is a wonderfully joyous song (betcha by golly) with joyous lyrics, yet there is no joy in Phyllis’ voice. She sings it like it was a dirge, a mournful song.
    I'd like to like everything Phyllis , but surprisingly this is one , for me, that misses the mark , and I think you've nailed it. Her vocals are terrific , but it's not convincing that she's singing from a joyous state of celebrating her life's love. More like a yearning. This ambience that's created, I almost picture her singing to some sleepy half empty dive somewhere. To be fare Phyllis is trying to suit that limp arrangement and the nod-you-to-sleep drumming. Can someone please serve the back- up singers some coffee!!
    Last edited by Boogiedown; Yesterday at 02:26 PM.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by carlo View Post
    That's a solid and very true assessment, Boogiedown. The industry was especially tough on women, and even tougher on black women. As someone who was equally known for being extremely beautiful and extremely talented, I think she really felt the pressures of growing older. She used to joke about her weight in her latter years, but I think those jokes were sadly based in her own deficient view of herself. She was still very much a beautiful woman but she couldn't see it and she didn't feel valued or appreciated. Of course, much of that inner turmoil sadly came from her own mental illness and addictions. If only she had been capable to feel all of the love that people really had for her, and if she could have only held that same loving space for herself. These situations are very difficult and sad, as it's nearly impossible to bring someone out of that, when they are battling their own mental illness. Unfortunately I've seen this happen with some in my own family. The thing to be said about those who have sadly lost that fight is that we can only hope that they can finally now see everything clearly and peacefully. She is still so dearly loved and remembered.
    We agree Carlo except can you explain how the industry was tough on her because she was a black woman? She released eight albums and around thirty singles on major labels ...that seems amply supportive !! Maybe I'm missing something...

  26. #26
    I see the point about Betcha By Golly Wow, but to be fair, she could and did deliver genuine joy and exuberance in the three tracks I mentioned in my original post, and maybe Old Friend could be included in that discussion as well. So maybe it was just a matter of her getting comfortable as an artist since Betcha was pretty early in her career.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    We agree Carlo except can you explain how the industry was tough on her because she was a black woman? She released eight albums and around thirty singles on major labels ...that seems amply supportive !! Maybe I'm missing something...
    The sad truth is that the music industry at large has generally always put more value on artists who are male and white. Phyllis was fortunate to release the body of work that she has, but does it mean she received her proper dues as an artist? That would be up for debate, and in my opinion, no, she hasn't. Unless you're Aretha Franklin, the industry has been pretty dismissive of its black female artists. It's only in recent years that some have started to cut some fair deals, get equitable pay, obtain fair songwriting credits, etc. But years ago, forget it if you wanted a songwriting credit or wanted to contribute your own song to your own album. You were restricted to a very specific mold. I feel that at one point, the industry looked at Phyllis and said, "Well, we now already have our Anita Baker, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson...there's no more room for you on the radio or on the charts. You sold decently but you failed to get a 'cross-over pop hit', so we are done with you." That is what happened with her at Arista. That kind of attitude doesn't apply to people like Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon... (just insert an endless amount of white male artist names here). There's been some articles written on this subject in recent months, but even still, many black artists and executives are afraid to speak out. She didn't get a real chance to write her own songs until her last album, the release of which kept getting deferred. It was kept 'in the can' until after she passed away. At times, she was sadly not taken seriously as an artist.

  28. #28
    Here are just a couple of articles that speak to my point and I'm sure Phyllis felt the same pressures...

    https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-52936461

    https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-53120390

    https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/n...en-pop-artists

    "Meanwhile, Black women, no matter how gifted, are forced into boxes and are scolded for even thinking beyond the genre they’re confined."

    Clive's opposition to Phyllis' involvement in Sophisticated Ladies comes to my mind...

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    We agree Carlo except can you explain how the industry was tough on her because she was a black woman? She released eight albums and around thirty singles on major labels ...that seems amply supportive !! Maybe I'm missing something...
    Boogiedown, you are definitely missing something...

    You made a similar comment in a Diana Ross discussion, from which I inferred that you believe our fabulous Black divas exist in a realm not subject to gender and/or racial politics. It may be art to us but to the (white) men who make the rules of the music industry it is strictly commerce. The music industry of the 80s was a harsh racial climate. After the so-called death of disco, it was nearly impossible to get black artists onto mainstream "pop" radio until MJ, Prince, Whitney and Janet came along to dominate.

    Quote Originally Posted by carlo View Post
    The sad truth is that the music industry at large has generally always put more value on artists who are male and white. Phyllis was fortunate to release the body of work that she has, but does it mean she received her proper dues as an artist? That would be up for debate, and in my opinion, no, she hasn't. Unless you're Aretha Franklin, the industry has been pretty dismissive of its black female artists. It's only in recent years that some have started to cut some fair deals, get equitable pay, obtain fair songwriting credits, etc. But years ago, forget it if you wanted a songwriting credit or wanted to contribute your own song to your own album. You were restricted to a very specific mold. I feel that at one point, the industry looked at Phyllis and said, "Well, we now already have our Anita Baker, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson...there's no more room for you on the radio or on the charts. You sold decently but you failed to get a 'cross-over pop hit', so we are done with you." That is what happened with her at Arista. That kind of attitude doesn't apply to people like Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon... (just insert an endless amount of white male artist names here). There's been some articles written on this subject in recent months, but even still, many black artists and executives are afraid to speak out. She didn't get a real chance to write her own songs until her last album, the release of which kept getting deferred. It was kept 'in the can' until after she passed away. At times, she was sadly not taken seriously as an artist.
    Thank you, Carlo. You "showed us the receipts." Whitney would be proud.

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by carlo View Post
    The sad truth is that the music industry at large has generally always put more value on artists who are male and white. Phyllis was fortunate to release the body of work that she has, but does it mean she received her proper dues as an artist? That would be up for debate, and in my opinion, no, she hasn't. Unless you're Aretha Franklin, the industry has been pretty dismissive of its black female artists. It's only in recent years that some have started to cut some fair deals, get equitable pay, obtain fair songwriting credits, etc. But years ago, forget it if you wanted a songwriting credit or wanted to contribute your own song to your own album. You were restricted to a very specific mold. I feel that at one point, the industry looked at Phyllis and said, "Well, we now already have our Anita Baker, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson...there's no more room for you on the radio or on the charts. You sold decently but you failed to get a 'cross-over pop hit', so we are done with you." That is what happened with her at Arista. That kind of attitude doesn't apply to people like Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon... (just insert an endless amount of white male artist names here). There's been some articles written on this subject in recent months, but even still, many black artists and executives are afraid to speak out. She didn't get a real chance to write her own songs until her last album, the release of which kept getting deferred. It was kept 'in the can' until after she passed away. At times, she was sadly not taken seriously as an artist.
    This still goes on today maybe to a lesser extent. I keep thinking of the great Jully Black of Canada. That girl sing and has sung just about everything. She writes produces etc and still does not receive the recognition she deserves. Most Americans never heard of her.

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    This still goes on today maybe to a lesser extent. I keep thinking of the great Jully Black of Canada. That girl sing and has sung just about everything. She writes produces etc and still does not receive the recognition she deserves. Most Americans never heard of her.
    I think most of that is because she's a female singer and not a rapper like Drake and that
    she's Canadian. We in the states only retain a vague awareness of what goes on in popular culture in other places unless we get bombarded like when the Beatles dropped
    in.Even though she hit here with her 2003 Another Day release most folks couldn't tell you who Molly Johnson is. Or even the ex-pat Jeri Brown. Anyway I thought Jully had
    dropped out of the business but she released a new song this year right before the pandemic blew up called Follow Your Love. I won't post it here on Phyllis's thread. I
    always liked Jully's Etta James cover of Seven Day Fool. Lotta fun....

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by carlo View Post
    I feel that at one point, the industry looked at Phyllis and said, "Well, we now already have our Anita Baker, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson...there's no more room for you on the radio or on the charts. You sold decently but you failed to get a 'cross-over pop hit', so we are done with you."
    I don't know what you are imagining that "the industry" was?, but if you are picturing a bunch of white men gathered in a room determining which black women were going to be successful or not, or that they collectively were concerned that too many black women were making it, so they selectively squeezed one out , choosing Phyllis Hyman, well the whole notion is so ludicrous that I don't even want to persue it anymore . In fact it turns my stomach.
    Last edited by Boogiedown; Today at 02:12 PM.

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Guy View Post
    Boogiedown, you are definitely missing something...

    You made a similar comment in a Diana Ross discussion, from which I inferred that you believe our fabulous Black divas exist in a realm not subject to gender and/or racial politics. It may be art to us but to the (white) men who make the rules of the music industry it is strictly commerce. The music industry of the 80s was a harsh racial climate. After the so-called death of disco, it was nearly impossible to get black artists onto mainstream "pop" radio until MJ, Prince, Whitney and Janet came along to dominate.
    I don't know what comments on a Diana Ross thread you are referring to Guy , but if you wanted to engage with me about them, I wish you'd done done so then instead of blurring the lines here.

    This is a thread about Phyllis Hyman , of which was my focus, so I was intrigued by an assertion that her being a black woman contributed to her musical downfall. I thought it bunk when stated and still do and will until supplied a believable correlation.
    As for black music of the eighties , and what went on there , that would be an intriguing and rather lengthy topic of its own. It'd make a great thread.
    Last edited by Boogiedown; Today at 02:33 PM.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    I don't know what comments on a Diana Ross thread you are referring to Guy , but if you wanted to engage with me about them, I wish you'd done done so then instead of blurring the lines here.

    This is a thread about Phyllis Hyman , of which was my focus, so I was intrigued by an assertion that her being a black woman contributed to her musical downfall. I thought it bunk when stated and still do and will until supplied a believable correlation.
    As for black music of the eighties , and what went on there , that would be an intriguing and rather lengthy topic of its own. It'd make a great thread.
    Boogiedown, we don't know each other in the real world so at Soulful Detroit we are only the sum of our contributions on this board. This is the second time in a few weeks I've observed you comment in an manner that was disapproving, or perhaps just incredulous, at the suggestion that a Black female performer's career -- or commentary about her career -- was negatively impacted by prejudice relating to race or gender.

    I am surprised that you do not remember the recent discussion -- nominally about Diana Ross's net worth -- wherein another member made a comment about the inanity of the article and ascribed it to Diana Ross' gender. You pointedly, and negatively, reacted to the introduction of gender politics -- something about playing a "card."

    You've done the same thing here. Appearing to challenge another poster's opinion about how the politics of race negatively impacted Phyllis Hyman's artistic and commercial potential.

    I addressed you directly in that Ross thread. In that thread, and this one, I have no curiosity about your ideology. I am more curious that in this moment in our collective cultural evolution you would -- again -- pointedly challenge another person's opinion that politics can bear on a black woman's career prospects. You allowed that perhaps you were "missing something" and I merely affirmed that you likely are missing something.

    Carlo, provided excellent commentary in support of his opinion.

    Of course, you are entitled to an opinion and we are free to comment anywhere about anything within the rules of this forum. Please know I was not trying to provoke an argument then or now. I am only responding now to clarify so there is no enmity between us. In most other respects, especially as relates to our love of Black music, I think we have a great deal in common.

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