Friday, September 30, 2011

Sylvia Robinson, née Vanderpool, dies at 76; pioneering hip-hop producer

Sylvia Robinson, half of the 50's duo Mickey and Sylvia, has died at 76 in Edison, New Jersey.

Her biggest solo release was the 1973 disco hit Pillow Talk, which reached number one for two weeks on the R&B chart and number three on the pop chart, selling over two million copies.

Later, according to the New York Times,
...she found three young, unknown rappers in Englewood — Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee — and persuaded them to record improvised rhymes as the Sugarhill Gang (sometimes rendered as Sugar Hill Gang) over a nearly 15-minute rhythm track adapted from Chic’s “Good Times.”

The song was “Rapper’s Delight,” and the Robinsons chartered a new label, Sugar Hill Records, to produce it. It sold more than 8 million copies, reached No. 4 on the R&B charts and No. 36 on Billboard’s Hot 100, opening the gates for other hip-hop artists.

Ms. Robinson later signed Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and in 1982 she was a producer of their seminal song, “The Message.” It was groundbreaking rap about ghetto life that became one of the most powerful social commentaries of its time, laying the groundwork for the gangsta rap of the late 1980s.
In November of 1956, as half of the pop duo Mickey and Sylvia, she released Love Is Strange, which peaked at #1 on Billboard magazine's R&B Singles chart and #11 on the Hot 100 in 1957 and was also recorded by Bo Didley (but not released until 2007) and Buddy Holly.

In 2004 that song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its influence as a rock and roll single.

Director Terrence Malick used the song in Badlands, a film loosely based on the Charles Starkweather spree killings in Nebraska in the 1958, which also inspired the film Natural Born Killers and Bruce Springsteen's 1982 song Nebraska.

AKSARBENT's mom remembered Starkweather, her Lincoln garbageman, who was an odd, lethal redhead with a James Dean fixation.

(Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek dancing to Love is Strange in Badlands)

The full Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers Nashville treatment of the song:

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