Sylvia Robinson passed into legend on September 29, 2011 of heart failure at the age of 75. She came onto the music scene in the 1950s and had several hits, including “Love Is Strange,” which was a No. 1 R&B song in 1956. She also had a solo hit in 1973 with her self-made “Pillow Talk.” She was credited as a guiding force behind Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s most successful single, “The Message”, which is credited as the rap song that brought socially conscious lyrics into hip hop. She is also credited for penning hits by Ike and Tina Turner, The Moments, and others.
She was the founder of All Platinum Records in the 1960s, the cofounder of Sugarhill Records in 1978, and was the mastermind behind the anthem “Rappers Delight” in 1979. The song is ranked #248 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, #2 on About.com’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs, and #2 on VH1′s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs. The 15-minute song was recorded in a single take.
Newswire’s Nathan Rabin writes:
“…it was as a businesswoman that Robinson made the strongest mark. Along with husband Joe Robinson she founded All Platinum Records and later Sugar Hill Records but was floundering professionally until she started paying attention to a new kind of music sweeping the New York city streets, a stylized form of talking rooted in R&B but ultimately and undeniably its own thing.
In 1979 Sylvia brought together three aspiring rappers and had them perform long verses set to Chic’s “Good Times.” The result was “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang , a seminal track widely credited with taking hip hop from the streets of New York to mainstream America.
Sugar Hill was a major player in early hip hop thanks to seminal early singles like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” and Grandmaster Melle Mel’s “White Lines” but the popularity of Run-DMC signaled a sea change in hip hop from the Old School sound favored by Sugar Hill records to the stark minimalism of Run-DMC and a scrappy young label being run out of a college dorm room called Def Jam. Sugar Hill Records shut down amidst a flurry of lawsuits and ill will in 1986.”
Robinsons musical exploits had a direct and lasting impact on the evoltuion of rap, and music as a whole. Without her business savvy and creativity, there would be no rap music as we know it today.
Can you remember listening to Sylvia, Rappers Delight, or any of the acts she inspired?
Can you remember what she and her colleagues meant for Black culture and American culture as a whole?
In your opinion, what did Sylvia mean for Black music?