Thursday, June 20, 2024

Sylvia Robinson Cooed “Pillow Talk” and Godmothered Rap


Sylvia Robinson died today at age 75. She’d been sick for some time. Sylvia had two hits of her own–“Pillow Talk” and her big original hit as Mickey and Sylvia with “Love is Strange” in 1957. The former was scandalous in 1973 because it simulated an orgasm. Donna Summer picked it up a couple of years later for “Love to Love You Baby.” The latter track has been covered over and over, but Mickey Baker’s plaintive blues guitar resonates through the ages. But that wasn’t all for Sylvia. She married Joe Robinson in 1964 and started producing records. Some of their hits included the Moments’ “Love on a Two Way Street”–which Alicia Keys sampled so well for “Empire State of Mind”– and the great disco 45 “Shame Shame Shame” by Shirley Goodman (Shirley of “Let the Good Times Roll” fame) and Donnie Elbert. And that wasn’t all–the Robinsons started Sugar Hill Records, and gave birth to hip hop and rap with Grandmaster Flash and “The Message.” Sugar Hill Studios became famous. Of course the Robinsons went in to business with Morris Levy, the most notorious crook in the history of the record business. There are tons of colorful stories about them, but that doesn’t diminish their contributions to pop music and R&B. As someone once said, you have to break a lot of legs–er, eggs–to make an omelette. And PS, the records were great. Thanks, Sylvia.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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