Sylvia Robinson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sylvia Robinson
Background information
Birth name Sylvia Vanderpool
Also known as Little Sylvia
Mother of Hip-Hop[1]
Born (1936-03-06)March 6, 1936
New York, New York, U.S.
Origin Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.
Died September 29, 2011(2011-09-29) (aged 75)
Secaucus, New Jersey, U.S.
Genres Blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, funk, disco, hip-hop
Occupations Singer, record producer, record label executive
Years active 1950–2011
Labels Savoy Records, Columbia Records, Jubilee Records, Cat Records, Groove Records, Rainbow Records, RCA Records, Vik Records, Willow Records, King Records, All Platinum, Stang, Vibration, Sugar Hill Records
Associated acts Mickey & Sylvia, The Moments, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Sugarhill Gang, The Sequence

Sylvia Vanderpool-Robinson (March 6, 1936 – September 29, 2011) was an American singer, musician, record producer, and record label executive. She was best known for her work as founder/CEO of the hip hop label Sugar Hill Records. She is credited as the driving force behind two landmark singles in the genre; "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang,[2] and "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.


She was born as Sylvia Vanderpool (aka Vanterpool[3]) in 1936 in New York City.[4] She began recording music in 1950 for Columbia Records under the billing, Little Sylvia. In 1954, she began teaming up with Kentucky guitarist Mickey Baker, who then taught her how to play guitar. In 1956, the duo now known as Mickey & Sylvia, recorded the Bo Diddley and Jody Williams-penned rock single, "Love Is Strange," which topped the R&B charts and reached number eleven on the Billboard pop charts in early 1957. After several more releases including the modestly successful "There Oughta Be a Law", Mickey & Sylvia split up in 1959 with Sylvia later marrying Joe Robinson that same year. Sylvia restarted her solo career shortly after her initial split from Baker, first under the name Sylvia Robbins. In 1961, the duo reunited and recorded more songs together for various labels. They're most noted during this period for singing background on Ike & Tina Turner's hit single, "It's Gonna Work Out Fine". In 1964, frustrated with the music business, Baker moved to Paris.

In 1966, the Robinsons moved to New Jersey where they formed a soul music label, All Platinum Records, the following year, with artist Lezli Valentine, formerly of the Jaynettes, bringing the label its first hit with "I Won't Do Anything". In 1968, the duo signed a Washington, D.C. act named The Moments, who immediately found success with "Not on the Outside". Within a couple of years and with a new lineup, the group scored their biggest hit with "Love on a Two-Way Street", which Sylvia co-wrote and produced with Burt Keyes and (uncredited) lyrics by Lezli Valentine. Other hits the label and its subsidiaries, including Stang and Vibration, would have included Shirley & Company's "Shame, Shame, Shame", the Moments' "Sexy Mama" and "Look at Me I'm in Love" and the Whatnauts/Moments collaboration, "Girls".

In 1972, Robinson sent a demo of a song she had written called "Pillow Talk" to Al Green. When Green passed on it due to his religious beliefs,[5] Robinson decided to record it herself, returning to her own musical career. Billed under simply Sylvia, the record became an instant hit reaching number-one on the R&B charts and crossing over to reach Billboard Hot 100 #3, plus also reaching #14 in the UK at the beginning of 1973. She was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in May 1973.[5] Robinson would record four solo albums on the Vibration subsidiary[6] and had other R&B hits including "Sweet Stuff" and "Pussy Cat". "Pillow Talk" has been called an early example of prototypical disco music and went on to sell two million copies. The vocals are replete with moaning and heavy breathing, predating Donna Summer's orgasmic moans on "Love to Love You Baby".

In the 1970s, the Robinsons founded Sugar Hill Records. The company was named after the culturally rich Sugar Hill area of Harlem, an affluent African American neighborhood in Manhattan New York City, known as a hub for artists and performers in the early and mid 1900s.[7][8]

The song "Rapper's Delight", which was performed by The Sugar Hill Gang, brought rap into the public music arena, and revolutionized the music industry by introducing the technique of re-using existing compositions, a practice that became known as "sampling".[citation needed] . Sylvia's song, "Sunday", was sampled by Moby in his 2002 album 18. Later acts signed to Sugar Hill Records included all-female rap/funk group The Sequence, featuring a teenage Angie Stone (recording as "Angie B"), who had a million-selling hit in early 1980 with "Funk U Up".

After Sugar Hill folded due to changes in the music industry and the presences of hip-hop labels Profile and Def Jam and due to financial pressures in 1985, Robinson, who had by now divorced Joe Robinson, continued her efforts as a music executive, forming Bon Ami Records in 1987. The label was noted for signing the act The New Style, who later left and found success as Naughty by Nature.

Robinson died on the morning of September 29, 2011, aged 75, at Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus, New Jersey from congestive heart failure.[4][9]


Little Sylvia[edit]

  • 1952: "Drive Daddy Drive/I Found Somebody To Love" (Jubilee 5093)
  • 1952: "A Million Tears/Don't Blame My Heart" (Jubilee 5100)
  • 1953: "Blue Heaven/The Ring" (Jubilee 5113)

Mickey & Sylvia[edit]

  • 1957: Mickey & Sylvia
  • 1957: New Sounds
  • 1957: Love is Strange
  • 1973: Do It Again
  • 1996: The Willow Sessions
  • 1997: Love is Strange: A Golden Classics Edition

Sylvia Robbins[edit]

  • 1960: "Come Home/Frankie & Johnny" (Jubilee 5386)
  • 1964: "Don't Let Your Eyes Get Bigger Than Your Heart / From The Beginning" (Sue 805)
  • 1964: "Our Love/I Can't Tell You" (Sue 106)


  • 1973: Pillow Talk (US #70)
  • 1976: Sylvia
  • 1977: Lay It On Me
  • 1990: The Great Works of Sylvia & George: Queen & King of Sweet N.J.


Year Title Chart positions
1973 "Have You Had Any Lately?" 102
"Pillow Talk" 3 1
"Didn't I" 70 21
"Soul Je T'Aime" 99 39
1974 "Alfredo" 62
"Easy Evil" 68
"Private Performance" 62
"Sho Nuff Boogie" 80 46
"Sweet Stuff" 103 16
1976 "L.A. Sunshine" 54
1977 "Lay It On Me" 65
1978 "Automatic Lover" 43
1982 "It's Good to Be the Queen" 53


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "'Rapper's Delight'". National Public Radio. December 29, 2000. Retrieved 2010-12-20. "The story goes that Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee met Sylvia Robinson on a Friday and recorded "Rapper's Delight" the following Monday in just one take." 
  3. ^ "Sylvia Robinson". Cashbox Magazine News. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 
  4. ^ a b James C. McKinley Jr. (September 30, 2011). "Sylvia Robinson, Pioneering Producer of Hip-Hop, Is Dead at 75". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved October 1, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 338. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  6. ^ Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 7th edition by Joel Whitburn; ISBN 0-8230-7690-3 (pg. 619)
  7. ^ "Harlem - New York City Neighborhood - NYC". Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  8. ^ "Harlem, Hamilton Heights, El Barrio, New York City". Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  9. ^ Tracy Scott (September 29, 2011). "'Sylvia Robinson, mother of Hip Hop, dead'". Retrieved 2011-09-29. "Sylvia Vanterpool Robinson, 75, often credited as the Mother of Hip-Hop, died today at 6:28 a.m. EST from congestive heart failure." 

External links[edit]