b. Sylvia Vanterpool, 6th March 1936, New Jersey, New York City, U.S.A.
d. 29th September 2011, New Jersey Institute of Neuroscience, Edison, New Jersey, U.S.A.
Sylvia Robinson's career has taken several aspects, partly as a performer, along with a later role as a businesswoman, running her own, very influential record label.
Sylvia had two chart toppers, one as half of Mickey & Sylvia with 'Love Is Strange' and the other, her own solo gold single, 'Pillow Talk.'
Through the All Platinum label with husband Joe Robinson, she was instrumental in the careers of The Moments (she produced and co-wrote their number one R & B single 'Love on a Two Way Street') and several hits by various artists including Donnie Elbert, Retta Young ('(Sending Out An) S.O.S.'), the Whatnauts, Brother to Brother, Linda Lewis, Shirley and Company, the Rimshots ('Super Disco'), and many others.
During the '80's, the couple helped launch rap through their Sugarhill Records including Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and the seminal 'Rappers Delight' by the Sugarhill Gang.
Born Sylvia Vanterpool on 6th March, 1936, in New York City, she made her recording debut while a 14-year-old student at Washington Irving High School.
hot lips page, circa 1950
Discovered by a talent for Columbia Records, she recorded blues with trumpeter Hot Lips Page, accompanied by the Nelson Clark Orchestra.
little boy b/w how long must i be blue - 1951 / i went to your wedding b/w i found somebody to love - 1952
In 1950, she sang on two Columbia releases ('Chocolate Candy Blues' b/w 'Pacifying Blues' and 'I Was Under The Impression (That You Loved Me)' b/w 'Sharp Little Sister').
Later she recorded as Little Sylvia for Savoy during 1951 and 1953 with the Heywood Henderson Orchestra and Buddy Lucas.
While recording for the Cat label, she met guitarist Mickey Baker (whose real name was McHouston Baker) who taught her how to play guitar.
i'm so glad (tra la la la la la) b/w see de boom run dun - 1955 / love is strange - 1957 / mickey & sylvia - 1957 / new sounds - 1957
Teaming up with the Kentucky singer, their debut release was released on the Rainbow imprint, entitled 'I'm So Glad (Tra La-La-La-La-La)' b/w 'See De Boom Run Dun'.
In 1956, at the age of 21, Sylvia met RCA Records producer Bob Rolontz, who had heard about her and singing partner Mickey Baker.
love is strange - 1957 / press photo
Signing them to the label, Rolontz produced 'Love Is Strange.' Produced on 17th October, 1956, 'Love Is Strange' stayed at number one R & B for two weeks and went to number 11 Pop in early 1957.
Other Mickey & Sylvia singles were the two-sided hit 'There Ought to Be a Law' (number eight) b/w 'Dearest' from spring 1957 and 'Baby Youre So Fine' from fall 1961.
Mickey & Sylvia can also be heard on Ike & Tina Turners 'Its Gonna Work Out Fine,' which was number two R & B for two weeks in summer 1961.
The duo recorded for several labels during their careers together, including Cat, Rainbow, Vik, RCA Victor, Willow and King Records.
In 1962, Mickey Baker relocated to Paris.
In 1964, Sylvia married Joe Robinson.
The Robinsons started their label, All Platinum Records, in Engelwood, NJ, in 1968.
The label had its own eight-track recording studio called Soul Sound Studios.
Sylvia said she originally offered 'Pillow Talk' to Al Green, who declined the offer.
Sharing the session with Sylvia was (drummer) Yogi Horton, (bassist) Fred Pescod, (guitarist) Walter Morris, veteran arranger Sammy Lowe on keyboards (Lowe arranged several sides for the label), and Craig Derry on congas.
The track was the debut release of the Robinsons Vibration imprint.
do it again - 1973 / pillow talk - 1973 / sylvia - 1976 / lay it on me - 1977
Pillow Talk' held the number one R & B spot for two weeks and made it to number three pop on Billboards charts in spring 1973.
In 1976, Sylvia returned to recording with 'Sylvia' on her Vibration label.
The album included the much sought after 'L.A. Sunshine', 'Sweet Stuff' and 'The Next Time That I See You'.
at work in the mid seventies at all platinum
Sylvia's last album outing was entitled 'Lay It On Me', which was released in 1977 (the title track being a cover of the Heatwave evergreen).
Some of the labels hits, released on Stang, Turbo, Vibration, and All Platinum, included the Moments' 'Love on a Two Way Street' (number one R & B for five weeks, number three pop), 'Sexy Mama' (number three R & B), and 'Look at Me (Im in Love)' (number one R & B), Donnie Elbert's cover of Diana Ross & the Supremes hit 'Where Did Our Love Go'; The Whatnauts's 'Ill Erase Your Pain'; Brother to Brother's cover of Gil Scott Herons 'In the Bottle' (number nine R&B); and Chuck Jackson's 'Im Needing You, Wanting You.'
In 1974, Sylvia concentrated on running her own Sugarhill Records label, which became instrumental in the emergence of Rap Music as a format.
Angie Stone, whose 1999 debut album 'Black Diamond' includes 'No More Rain (In This Cloud),' was a member of the Sequence who hit with 'Funk You Up,' a 1980 remake of Parliament's gold 1976 hit 'Tear the Roof Off the Sucker.'
The Sequence wew part of the Sugarhill roser, along with the likes of The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Funky Four Plus One, Crash Crew, Treacherous Three, Spoonie Gee, Melle Mel, Busy Bee and The West Street Mob, along with the Soul performers, Harry Ray, Phillippe Wynne, The Moments, Mass Production, Positive Force along with Sylvia herself ('It's Good To Be Queen').
Sugarhill's studio's were based in New Jersey, where the business was additionally run, however, the building was destroyed by fire in 2002.
In the '80's, the Robinsons bought the Chess Records catalog and several years later sold the catalog to MCA Records.
west street mob in 1981: l to r: warren moore, joey robinson jr. and sebrina gillison
Their son, Joey Robinson, was a member of rap act West Street Mob.
Sylvia and Joe Robinson divorced in the late 1980's following various issues relating to Sugarhill Records.
Sylvia founded Bon Ami Records in 1987, discovering the group The New Style, who later left the label, and became nown as Naughty by Nature.
Joe Robinson died from cancer on the 5th of November 2000.
Sylvia resided in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, however she is reported to shun publicity, with her affairs being handled by her son, Joey.
Sylvia and Joe Robinson are featured in the book 'The Vibe-History of Hip Hop', published by Random House in September 1999.
Sylvia Robinson died on the 29th of September 2011 from congestive heart failure in New Jersey.
as Mickey & Sylvia:
Mickey & Sylvia (Vik Records 1957)
New Sounds (repackaged) (Vik Records 1957)
Love Is Strange (Camden Records 1957)
Do It Again (RCA Records 1973)
The Willow Sessions (Sequel Records 1996)
Love Is Strange: A Golden Classics Edition (Collectables 1997)
Love Is Strange (Bear Family-Rollercoaster 2010)
Pillow Talk (Vibration Records 1973)
Sylvia (Vibration Records 1976)
Lay It On Me (Vibration Records 1977)