From Publishers Weekly:
In the world of that most disparaged of musical genres—disco—the subject
of this biography commanded respect. By conventional standards,
Sylvester James was an outsider—he was an out, gay, African-American who
dressed in drag and sang with a thundering falsetto—but he found
mainstream success in the late 1970s and early '80s with three Top 40
hits, Dance (Disco Heat), You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and I
Who Have Nothing, and an international #1 sensation (Do Ya Wanna
Funk). At times, Gamson's (Freaks Talk Back) extensively
researched volume is a vibrant and moving oral biography, with firsthand
conversations with virtually everyone who knew or worked with Sylvester,
from his youth in South Central L.A. through his successful music
career, to his death from AIDS in 1988 at 41. The richness of this
material (Sylvester's background singers Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes
Armstead, who later became the Weather Girls, are particularly amusing
and insightful raconteurs) reveals all the shadings of Sylvester's diva
persona: he was fierce but generous, caustic but caring, temperamental
but talented. Gamson's pulsating use of song lyrics, sounds and
descriptions also creates a tangible history of San Francisco as it
changed from a joyous oasis of liberation to the epicenter of the AIDS
pandemic. Seventeen years after his death, this gay icon gets the
celebratory biography he deserves. Photos.
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