In Black America Podcast: The Legacy of Songstress & Diva Phyllis Hyman
On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the late Phyllis Hyman. Hyman began her career as a silky voiced, jazz-influenced singer and gradually moved into slick, heavily produced urban contemporary ballads and light dance songs. She was born Phyllis Linda Hyman on July 6th, 1949, in Philadelphia, and raised in Pittsburgh. She was the oldest of seven siblings. The popular, six-foot soul and jazz beauty, won a scholarship to music school and then began her professional career with the group New Direction in 1971. When they disbanded after a national tour, she joined the Miami ensemble All the People. She also worked there with another local group, the Hondo Beat, and appeared in the film Lenny. That was followed by a two-year stint leading a band called Phyllis Hyman & the P/H Factor, before relocating to New York City.
She did background vocals and built her reputation performing in New York clubs. Norman Connors made her his featured vocalist in the mid-’70s, and she was highlighted on a cover of the Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly Wow,” which appeared on Connors’ You Are My Starship LP. She also sang with Pharaoh Sanders & the Fatback Band while recording two singles as a lead a vocalist.
Hyman was signed to Arista in 1978, where she released her self-titled album “Phyllis Hyman,” which produced the hit single “Somewhere in My Lifetime.” Her further hits included “The Answer is You,” “Meet Me On The Moon,” “Living All Alone” and “Don’t Want To Change The World.” In 1986, she signed with the Philadelphia International label, recorded albums “Living All Alone” (1986), “Prime of My Life” (1991) and appeared in the Spike Lee film “School Daze” (1988). Into the early ’90s, she was performing live shows at large urban theaters such as Harlem’s ‘Apollo,’ Oakland’s ‘Paramount’ and ‘Fox Theatre’ in St. Louis.
On June 30th, 1995, Hyman committed suicide in her New York City apartment. She was 45.