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30 Great Artists Who Changed Music

30 Great Artists Who Changed Music
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25: Sylvia Robinson (1935-2011)

If Sylvia Robinson had been just a singer, she would still be remembered as one of the most influential Black musicians of all time. But as a writer, label-owner, producer and talent-spotter, she was a (largely unsung) genius. Sylvia was born in Harlem, New York City, in 1935, and began her recording career as Little Sylvia in 1950. She formed a duo, Mickey & Sylvia, with the dazzling guitarist-vocalist Mickey Baker, hitting big with the exotic R&B tune Love Is Strange. In 1961, Sylvia played guitar on Ike And Tina Turner’s It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, and married Joe Robinson three years later. In the mid-60s they opened a record label, All Platinum, releasing soul, jazz and R&B on an array of imprints, and made a key signing in 1968: classy vocal trio The Moments, who churned out hits for more than a decade.

While the All Platinum sound was often raw compared to that of the label’s more sophisticated rivals, such as Philadelphia International, the company hit with The Rimshots, Retta Young, Shirley & Company, Donny Elbert and Robinson herself, with 1973’s suggestive Pillow Talk, a likely inspiration for Donna Summer’s earliest hits. As the Black disco boom Robinson’s label helped create was swamped by bandwagon-climbers, All Platinum foundered. However, the wily entrepreneur noticed a trend in New York and created a company to capture it: Sugar Hill. It was the first label to seriously document a new music called hip-hop, bringing the world talents such as Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash And The Furious 5, female crew The Sequence and mixed-gender outfit Positive Force, and even laid the foundations for conscious rap through Melle Mel’s The Message. Sylvia’s contribution is often overlooked, but she did everything in US Black music for four decades. Without her foresight, would hip-hop have achieved its commercial potential?

Must hear: Next Time I See You



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