Phyllis Hyman (1949-1995) was an American R&B and jazz singer. Nancy Wilson says she is one of the two best singers she has ever known, the other being Sarah Vaughan. Phyllis Hyman had a very unhappy love life and sang about it honestly. She never had a gold record, yet she had a strong following among her fans.
These songs made it into the top 20 on the American R&B charts:
- 1978: Somewhere in My Lifetime (#12)
- 1979: You Know How to Love Me (#12)
- 1981: Can’t We Fall in Love Again (#9)
- 1986: Old Friend (#14)
- 1986: Living All Alone (#12)
- 1991: Don’t Wanna Change the World (#1)
- 1991: Living in Confusion (#9)
- 1992: When You Get Right Down to It (#10)
These are the songs she liked best:
- Be Careful (How You Treat My Love)
- Somewhere in My Lifetime
- Meet Me on the Moon
- When I Give My Love (This Time)
They made her think about the past and the future, about love and pain and happiness.
She was born in Philadelphia but grew up poor in the housing projects of Pittsburgh, in St Clair Village. Even as a girl her singing talent and stage presence were apparent. She said it was a gift from God: she did not grow up singing in church, she did not even have a record player to listen to music on. She stood 6 foot 1 (1.85 m).
The three singers who had the biggest effect on her:
- Nancy Wilson, who she modelled herself after and who later helped her;
- James Brown, whose business sense she liked; and
- Minnie Riperton, whose way of putting her feelings into her singing she copied.
After performing with some bands in the early 1970s, she came to New York in 1975 to sing in the jazz clubs there. She soon came to the attention of producer Norman Connors. She recorded a cover of the Stylistics song, “Betcha By Golly Wow”. It got to #29 on the R&B charts.
In time she found herself at Arista working with Clive Davis. He favoured Angela Bofill over her and then along came a new girl named Whitney Houston. Arista told her it was over.
She went to sing on Broadway in the Duke Ellington tribute, “Sophisticated Ladies” for a few years and sang on other people’s songs. She even sang on television ads: “Aren’t you hungry for Burger King now?”
In 1985 she joined Gamble & Huff at Philadelphia International Records. They gave her complete freedom to sing the songs she wanted in the way she wanted.
Even though she was loved by a million people and was at the height of her talent, she was sad and alone. She had no man to love her. She also feared losing her beauty as she gained weight. She drank too much and missed concert dates. In 1993 her mother, grandmother and a close friend all died in the same month.
Then on a Friday afternoon, June 30th 1995, she took her life in an apartment in New York just hours before she was to appear at the Apollo Theatre. Her funeral was held on her 46th birthday.
- Posted songs:
- Women with the most beautiful lips
- Also grew up in Pittsburgh:
- Also worked with Clive Davis:
- Alicia Keys
- Whitney Houston
- Also worked with Gamble & Huff
- Sheila Ferguson of the Three Degrees
- New York
- Dorothy Dandridge