Mighty Real: The Essential Sylvester

Let's pay a birthday tribute to the other Queen Of Disco.

Sylvester James was a trailblazer and an icon, and his musical legacy lives on, 30 years after his death.

An early member of The Cockettes, he eventually went solo and struck while the disco iron was hot, becoming one of the most recognizable voices of that era.

Today, September 6, would have been his 71st birthday, so let’s take a look at some career highlights. These ten songs are a good place to start your Essential Sylvester!

(YOU MAKE ME FEEL) MIGHTY REAL

YEAR: 1978
CHART PEAK: #36
DANCE CHART: #1

His signature song, it’s been covered by Jimmy Somerville and Sandra Bernhard, and is one of the greatest dance classics of all time.

DANCE (DISCO HEAT)


YEAR: 1978
CHART PEAK: #19
DANCE CHART: #1

His first Top 40 hit, it was also his highest charting, hitting the Top 20. A 12″ single was released with “Mighty Real” as the B side, becoming one of the biggest dance one-two punches of the decade.

I (WHO HAVE NOTHING)


YEAR: 1979
CHART PEAK: #40
DANCE CHART: #4

His final Top 40 hit, it was originally recorded in English by Ben E. King, and covered by everyone from Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey to Joe Cocker and Liza.

DO YOU WANNA FUNK


YEAR: 1982
CHART PEAK: N/A
DANCE CHART: #4

A huge hit all over Europe, it didn’t even chart on the Hot 100 in the U.S., but has become one of his most well-loved tracks.

SOMEONE LIKE YOU


YEAR: 1986
CHART PEAK: N/A
DANCE CHART: #1

His second (and last ) #1 smash on the dance chart, it’s from his final studio album Mutual Attraction. Debbie Allen is working it in the video, and I think this was my favorite Sylvester look.

ONE NIGHT ONLY


YEAR: 1983
CHART PEAK: N/A
DANCE CHART: N/A

From his 1983 album Call Me comes a bring-down-the-house version of the Dreamgirls classic.

SOUTHERN MAN


YEAR: 1973
CHART PEAK: N/A
DANCE CHART: N/A

Sylvester released his first single in 1973 (under “Sylvester And The Hot Band”), a cover of Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” Wait … what? Yep, with backing vocals by The Pointer Sisters!

MENERGY


YEAR: 1984
CHART PEAK: N/A
DANCE CHART: N/A

Pioneering dance producer Patrick Crowley released “Menergy” in 1980, and it climbed to the top of the dance, chart. Two years after his death, it was re-released, this time with Sylvester’s lead vocals.

YOU ARE MY FRIEND


YEAR: 1979
CHART PEAK: N/A
DANCE CHART: N/A

Recorded in San Francisco for his 1979 live album, Living Proof, “You Are My Friend” was dedicated to Patti Labelle (who of course, owns the song), and backing vocals were provided by Two Tons Of Fun, (Martha Wash and Izora Armstead, who would later be better known as The Weather Girls).

MAGIC NUMBER


YEAR: 1981
CHART PEAK: N/A
DANCE CHART: #9

Sylvester eschewed his falsetto for this collaboration with Herbie Hancock for herbie’s 1981 album Magic Windows. It also features drum work by Sheila E.

Okay, your turn! What’s in your Essential Sylvester Collection?

80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.
@therealsnicks