Phyllis Hyman may be gone but thankfully, she’s far from forgotten.
And fans can reminisce once again with the recently released nine-CD compilation of 113 tracks titled, “Phyllis Hyman – Old Friend: The Deluxe Collection 1976-1998.” The box set includes all of Hyman’s albums along with previously unreleased recordings and a bonus: a 37-page booklet with production details and history  about the singer who passed away in 1995.
“Old Friend,” co-produced by music biographer David Nathan and Glenda Gracia, the executor of Hyman’s estate, has been in the works over the past year and has been released on Nathan’s SoulMusic.com label.
“With the reverence and love for her music that has been evident through the years, Phyllis Hyman was an obvious choice for an all-encompassing box set of her recordings,” said Nathan, a former neighbor of Hyman. “I approached Glenda Garcia, a longtime friend and colleague, to work with me on ensuring this would be the best possible collection for Phyllis’ many fans worldwide.”
Without a doubt, Hyman had a vocal range that adapted to many musical genres as the collection confirms – from jazz and the American songbook standards to R&B, pop and disco.
Many who lived in the D.C. area during the mid-70s may have first been introduced to Hyman through the Quiet Storm on Howard University’s WHUR Radio.
The popular evening broadcast featured songs by Hyman that would become classics: “You Are My Starship,” produced and composed by Norman Connors who chose her to sing the title song on his 1976 album; and “Betcha By Golly Wow,” the Thom Bell and Linda Creed composition that created a love affair between the vocalist and fans worldwide.
Other producers who worked magic with Hyman included: Dexter Wansel, Narada Michael Walden, James Mtume, Reggie Lucas and Barry Manilow, who co-produced one of Hyman’s earliest hits, “Somewhere in My Lifetime.”
Hyman developed into a reliable vocalist on the Buddha and Arista record labels before making her way to Philadelphia International Records where she would collaborate with co-founders and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Critics say her first album for the label, “Living All Alone,” captured Hyman’s true essence.
“The magic that I experienced with her was that the tone of her voice was so unique,” Gamble said. “She could sing anything and she would put her heart and soul into it. Whatever the song was that she was performing, she was very sensitive to the lyrics. She knew how to make [them] work. The tone of her voice was always the same. You knew it was Phyllis; she had her own identity.”
Broadway came calling for Hyman in 1981 as a cast member in the critically acclaimed musical “Sophisticated Ladies,” based on the music of Duke Ellington. Hyman garnered a Tony Award nomination for her feature role in which she would be cast alongside actor, dancer and singer Gregory Hines and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer, choreographer and artistic director emerita, Judith Ann Jamison. dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison and Hinton Battle.
“Phyllis was magnificent in ‘Sophisticated Ladies’ as audiences and reviewers agreed,” Nathan said. “Nabbing a Tony nomination for her performance was a real triumph. I think that if she were offered roles that she could really ‘own’ as a multi-faceted performer, she could well have continued doing selected Broadway shows.”
The District deeply adored Hyman. Her sets at Blues Alley always sold out. As people waited to enter the Georgetown club, Hyman would come out to chat with guests. Having a special dish named after her, “Phyllis Hyman’s Stuffed Shrimp Crabmeat Stuffing served w/Red Beans Rice & Homemade Cocktail Sauce,” confirmed the artist’s popularity.
Hyman, who struggled with mental health challenges, committed suicide on June 30, 1995.
Hyman’s fans often wonder what she would be doing today, had she not taken her own life.
“I think she would just be Phyllis,” Gamble said. “I think she’d be working in the community and helping our communities grow. Maybe in her spare time, she would do a duet with Bruno Mars.”
Tags and Handles:
#Phyllis Hyman
David Nathan: @davidnathansoul
SoulMusic Records: @myclassicsoul
Kenny Gamble: @mrkennygamble
#Leon Huff:
#Glenda Gracia
#Norman Connors
#Linda Creed
#Thom Bell

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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4 Comments

  1. I have always adored Phyllis Hyman, since my Mom took me to see Phyllis perform in concert back in the 70’s—Her beauty and her talent are sooooo… Overwhelming—Certainly I don’t think she received the many awards due to her, but she had many fans in DC—My summers weren’t complete until I
    Would see Phyllis at the Carter Barron—Thanks, for writing
    Such a lovely article about our Phyllis Hyman—May she rest
    In peace and. always be remembered

  2. Thanks for your kind words about the Phyllis Hyman article. She still is a “praise-worthy” artist.

  3. I will always consider her my favorite female singer and I am blessed to have know her as a friend.
    I am waiting for someone to come along while I am still living that can Sing like Phyllis could!

  4. Aye…i have YETT!!! 2find ANY SUMM BODY..das gotz my
    PHYLLIS HYMAN tattoo’d on em…YEZZIRRRR…as i do!!
    Im all4$$$ keepin PHYLLIS nvr4gotn..but i refuse 2b..not juz LONELY..but NOT a fool 2anybody BLEEDIN phyllis
    Off her name, 4money..

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