It doesn’t seems like yesterday, but I was living in Lake View, intentionally collecting records and feverishly aspiring to dj. It was one of the hottest days in Chicago 95'. People were leaving the planet at record numbers, because the temperature was consistently above 100 degrees. I got a fon call from my best friend, crying. My best friend who favored the lovely Ms. Hyman, called to share sentiments about Phyllis and her departure. Time can stand still again and I will travel further backwards. I reference myself sitting in my bedroom, in Chatham. I must've been 5 years old, doing what I often did, staring at the radio. That radio played then, what remains some of my favorites now, George Benson, Patti Austin, Donny Hathaway (amongst others) and most certainly Phyllis Hyman. The tune that I recall making me the happiest was "You Know How To Love Me", not that I didn't feel extremely loved listening every tune of Phyllis'. It's one of the things that I will be forever grateful to my mother for, her taste in music. Rich, belly belting, and undisputedly SOULFUL, are a few terms to describe Ms. Hyman's sound. A tall drink of water, as the elders would say, She laid the soulful sorrows of the trails of life down on us. As I grow out musically, I am becoming less interested in titles. She is categorized as Jazz, blues, and soul. What we can call Phyllis' sound in hindsight is Blues regardless to wether or not she wrote those lyrics she sang the blues so passionately. Though she did very little writing, she became the songs she sang, because she was them. Her acting had to play a part in how she molded and "mooded" her tunes. We can talk about the ills of the industry and the twist and turns. And yes I have heard more than a few stories of the craziness that went along with the many moods under the big hats and shoulder pads she dawned. I'm glad to have been years younger and unable to witness any of this first hand. I am saddened that I didn't get the opportunity to witness one of her performances live and in person. Google had yet to be invented during the time of her death. If it had been, I’d be doing what I am trying not to do now, researching every angle of her ascension, as I have done with Marvin and others. And I say ascension because regardless to the stigma that goes with suicide, we don't know where the soul ends up. I'd like to believe that she was sent here from the ethers, to bless us with the sound of soul and returned there. Phyllis was not just soul and song, but the BUSINESS. NO, not in the trended term way, but about hers. She was involved in running her business. Her bookings, her staff all selected by HER. I watched a youtube video from BET years back, where Phyllis spoke passionately about making sure to hire black people. She even referenced TIna Turner and Diana Ross, for not seeking to employ their own people. I'm almost certain this is why she had a short lived relationship with Clive Davis, who sought more of a bobble head of a songstress. (no disrespect to Whitney) There's another blog to be written about her.
We as African American women have to hear the words from the mouth of Phyllis about being an executive and the trails of being focused tall and intimidating.
I love Phyllis for more reasons than her strong, rich voice, her tall beautiful face and stature. I love her effort to maintain and continue, in a world that only wanted her YOUNG face and voice. A world that struggled to control her talent, but not the trails of a not so average black woman. A black woman who refuses to bend, but is sensitive enough to acknowledge the fragility that breaks us. I'll stand as long as I can, for those who battle the odds, and fight depression by continuing to create in love, honor and respect of music and self.
(I’m not done, I’m watching videos now and so much is coming from it. You might want to check back as I will continue to edit, when time permits)
when i come to the jam