Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson

The awesome woman of the day for Wednesday, July 4, 2012, is Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson, U.S. singer, record producer, and record label executive. Born March 6, 1934, NYC, NY, USA. Died September 29, 2011, Secaucus, NJ, USA.

Sylvia was probably best known as the Sylvia in Mickey and Sylvia ("Love is Strange")

However, Love is Strange is NOT the reason I am profiling her today. I learned this morning that Ms. Robinson was a co-founder of Sugar Hill records, that she co-wrote and produced "The Message":

... and that she was the genius who, the story goes, recruited the rappers on Rappers’ Delight by having her son drive her around Englewood, NJ. 

At the time, the conventional music industry wisdom was that the live energy of rap was impossible to capture on vinyl. Nevertheless, one hot August night in 1979 Robinson made her son Joey drive her around Englewood, New Jersey, looking for rappers. 
He told NPR in 2000 that he took his mother to a pizza place and introduced her to Henry Jackson. "He closed the pizza parlor down," said Joey Robinson about the man who would become Big Bank Hank. "He's got all this dough on him. He weighs about 300 to 400 pounds at the time. And he jumps in the back of my Oldsmobile and starts rapping."

The Robinsons kept driving around, people kept hopping into the car and The Sugarhill Gang was born. 
None of the rappers had ever worked together before. In the studio, Sylvia Robinson cued each one by pointing at them, and they recorded "Rapper's Delight" in one uninterrupted 14-minute take. Robinson personally mailed the single to radio stations and badgered them to play it. 
So much for conventional wisdom.

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