Sylvester James (September 6, 1947 in Los Angeles, California – December 16, 1988 in San Francisco, California) was an American disco and soul musician, and a gay drag performer. Known for singing in falsetto (and occasionally a rich baritone voice), he is also considered one of the first Hi-NRG artists. His grandmother was the jazz singer Julia Morgan. He performed under his first name only, Sylvester.
Living in San Francisco in the 1960s, he performed in a musical production called Women of the Blues, then joined a short-lived group of transvestite performance artists called The Cockettes in the early 70's (famed transvestite Divine was a member of the group as well). Sylvester can be seen in The Cockettes' outrageous short film Tricia's Wedding, lampooning the wedding of President Nixon's daughter Tricia, and in an eponymous 2002 documentary about the group.
In 1972, Sylvester supplied two cuts to Lights Out San Francisco, an album complied by the KSAN radio station and released on the Blue Thumb label. In 1973, Sylvester & his Hot Band released two rock-oriented albums on Blue Thumb (their self-titled debut was also known as "Scratch My Flower," due to a gardenia-shaped scratch-and-sniff sticker adhered to the cover). Signed a solo act to Fantasy Records in 1977, and working with the production talents of legendary Motown producer Harvey Fuqua. Sylvester later alleged that Fuqua cheated him out of millions of dollars.
Sylvester soon met his frequent collaborator Patrick Cowley. Cowley's synthesizer and Sylvester's voice proved to be a magical combination, and pushed Sylvester's sound in an increasingly dance-oriented direction; his second solo album - Step II (1978) - unleashed two disco classics: "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," and "Dance (Disco Heat)." By this time both his live shows and recordings also recognizably featured the back-up vocals of Two Tons O' Fun: future Weather Girls Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes. 1979 brought three Billboard awards and an appearance in the movie, The Rose, starring Bette Midler.
Moving to Megatone Records in 1982, Sylvester quickly landed a Hi-NRG classic with "Do You Wanna Funk." He was close friends with other Megatone artists Linda Imperial and Jeanie Tracy. Sylvester was also very close to the legendary Patti LaBelle.
Later pressure from the label to "butch up" his image would result in him attending meetings in full-on drag. A drag photo shoot, which he staged and presented to label heads as a gag (calling it his "new album cover") would later grace the cover of Immortal after Sylvester died; it was the label's way of paying tribute to his spirit. In 1985, one of his dreams came true as he was summoned to sing back-up for Aretha Franklin on her Who's Zoomin' Who comeback album. His sole Warner Bros. album was Mutual Attraction in 1986; a single from the album, "Someone Like You," featured original cover art by Keith Haring.
Sylvester died of complications from AIDS on December 16, 1988. His good friend Jeanie Tracy took care of Sylvester during his last days.
In the late 1990's, performance artist Djola Branner (co-founder of the highly influential Pomo Afro Homos troupe) created his acclaimed solo piece and CD Mighty Real around the life of Sylvester.
On September 20, 2004 Sylvester's anthem record, You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame. A year later, on September 19, 2005, Sylvester himself was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievement as an artist.
In 2005, a biography written by Joshua Gamson and titled The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, The music, The 70s in San Francisco was published.
2. Sylvester (Sylvester Larsen , born 1973) is a danish artist, who has released 4 albums. He is the son of Kim Larsen. See www.sylvesterlarsen.dk User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.