*Twenty-five years ago today, Phyllis Hyman was scheduled to perform at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. She was to join R&B vocal quartet The Whispers for their 30th anniversary celebration, but the group learned upon their arrival for sound check that Hyman was ill and might cancel her performance.
Hyman, who battled bipolar disorder, had overdosed that afternoon on pentobarbital and secobarbital in her New York City apartment at 211 West 56th Street. She was found unconscious at 2:00 p.m., and died three hours later at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital. She was six days shy of her 46th birthday. Her suicide note read in part:.”I’m tired. I’m tired. Those of you that I love know who you are. May God bless you.”
In this EUR Video Throwback, we take a closer look at the years leading up to Hyman’s final moments. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jenice Armstrong wrote of her death in 2007, “In addition to battling bipolar disorder, Hyman also suffered from drug and food addictions as well as alcoholism. She’d entered drug rehabilitation facilities a couple of times, but couldn’t stay clean for long. At the time of her death, her weight had ballooned to more than 300 pounds and she was experiencing financial difficulties.”
Hyman spoke openly about her emotional highs and lows in an interview with EbonyJet.com.
Phyllis Hyman on Emotional Ups & Downs (EbonyJet.com)
The night of Hyman’s death, the Apollo show went on as scheduled. The Washington Post reported that her band members performed and sang her songs, “and comforted some of the singer’s relatives who had come to celebrate her birthday.”
Initially, the Whispers were going to pull out of the show, believing that performing the up-tempo parts of their set, including “And the Beat Goes On” and “Rock Steady,” would be inappropriate under the circumstances. But a few words from an Apollo employee ultimately brought them onstage. “She told me that Phyllis would have wanted us to go on, and I think that’s true,” group member Walter Scott told the Post. Below, Hyman’s lone recorded collaboration with The Whispers, “Suddenly,” from The Whispers’ 1984 album “So Good.”
“Suddenly” – The Whispers feat. Phyllis Hyman
Hyman, signed to Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International Records, spoke to EbonyJet.com about the bittersweet experience of performing one of her signature songs penned by the late Linda Creed. The veteran songwriter was diagnosed with cancer at age 26, but kept working and writing until her death at age 37. Creed teamed with the label writer/producer/arranger Thom Bell to create hits for the The Stylistics (“You Are Everything,” “Betcha by Golly, Wow,” “Break Up to Make Up,” “People Make the World Go Round,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New” and “I’m Stone in Love with You”), and The Spinners (“Ghetto Child,” “I’m Coming Home,” “Living a Little, Laughing a Little” and “The Rubberband Man.”)
Creed collaborated with fellow Pennsylvania native Hyman on many of her songs, most notably “Old Friend.” Below, Hyman tears up discussing Creed, the story behind the song and the emotion she has to keep in check whenever performing it.
Phyllis Hyman on “Old Friend” (EbonyJet.com)
Phyllis Hyman – “Old Friend” Live (1994)
Hyman’s posthumous album, “I Refuse to Be Lonely,” was released in November 1995. It was supposed to drop months before her death but had been delayed repeatedly over “cost negotiations,” according to the Post.
Hyman had already started performing the tracks “This Too Shall Pass” and “I Refuse To Be Lonely” in concert and public appearances.
Phyllis Hyman, with Billy Preston on a Texas morning TV show, sings “I Refuse To Be Lonely” (1994) – at the 5:40 mark
The constant delays in releasing “I Refuse to Be Lonely,” according to The Post, affected Hyman both emotionally and financially leading up to the day she was found unresponsive on June 30, 1995.
Kenny Gamble spoke about his artist’s bipolar battle in a video recalling the production of her 1986 hit “Living All Alone.” The track was from her album of the same name, and her first for Philadelphia Int’l after leaving Arista following her sixth album, “Goddess of Love.”
Kenny Gamble speaks on Hyman’s Bipolar Disorder, Hyman performs “Living All Alone”
How Herb Alpert’s ‘Rise’ Topped the Chart 41 Years Ago Today for All the Wrong Reasons (EUR Video Throwback)
*Some people of a certain age hear the 1979 instrumental “Rise” by Herb Alpert and think back no further than the 1997 image of Notorious B.I.G. and Puffy on a yacht. But there’s an entire generation of fans who, to this day, hear the song’s baseline strut and are instantly taken back to a critical scene on the soap opera “General Hospital.”
A rape scene.
On October 20, 1979, “Rise” went to No. 1 in the U.S. after it was used in a scene featuring Luke Spencer and Laura Webber, “General Hospital’s” “Luke & Laura” lovebirds whose immense popularity would explode beyond their own soap – and daytime dramas in general – to become a cultural flashpoint.
But the iconic characters, played by Genie Francis and Anthony Geary, weren’t even a couple when Geary reportedly suggested “Rise” to the show’s music director for his pivotal scene with Francis.
In fact, Laura was still with Scottie Baldwin when Luke – after Laura rebuffed his declaration of love – threw on the DJ’s record player and raped Laura on the floor of the campus disco, as “Rise” played in the background.
“General Hospital” ran this song several times a week for a short period after this scene, until writers transformed Luke and Laura into romantic lovers and made his redemption a part of their storyline.
“Rise,” written by Andy Armer and Herb’s nephew Randy “Badazz” Alpert, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 exactly three months after its July 20, 1979 release from the album of the same name. It remained at the top for two weeks, and gave Alpert the distinction of becoming the first and only artist to score Hot 100 chart toppers with both an instrumental performance and a vocal performance (1968’s “This Guy’s in Love With You,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David).
“Rise” was also a fixture on Black radio in 1979, having peaked at number four on the R&B chart and number seventeen on the disco chart.
Sean “Puffy” Combs came along 18 years later and gave “Rise” new life by choosing its bass line for Biggie’s track “Hypnotize.” Released on March 1, 1997, one week before the rapper’s death in a drive by shooting, Puff’s production laced with B.I.G.’s indelible lyrics took “Rise” back to the Hot 100 summit. The original spent the entire summer of ’79 climbing the charts until that episode of “General Hospital” shoved it into the No. 1 spot on Oct. 20. Biggie’s version debuted at No. 2 and reached the pinnacle a week later.
Randy Alpert told the website songfacts.com, “I asked Puffy, in 1996 when he first called me concerning using ‘Rise’ for ‘Hypnotize,’ why he chose the ‘Rise’ groove. He told me that in the summer of 1979 when he was I think 10 years old the song was a huge hit everywhere in New York and ‘Rise’ along with Chic’s ‘Good Times’ were ‘The Songs’ that all the kids were dancing and roller skating to that summer. He had always remembered that summer and that song. When he first played the loop for Biggie, Biggie smiled and hugged him.”
Randy Alpert continued: “Over the years I was approached by Ice Cube, Easy E, Vanilla Ice, and maybe another 4-5 artists to use the song and I never said yes until I heard a rough version of Biggie’s recording. I was sent a cassette from Puffy and when I cranked it up I not only immediately loved it but my gut thought that this could be a #1 record once again.”
While “Hypnotize” wasn’t the only record to sample “Rise,” it was by far the most successful.
Monica used the groove on “I’m Back” from her 2002 album “All Eyez on Me.”
And Bell Biv DeVoe sampled the groove in their 2016 single “Run,” the trio’s first track in 14 years.
RADIOSCOPE RAW Podcast: Our Uncut 1989 Interview with Gladys Knight and the Pips
*Episode 4 of the Radioscope Raw podcast features our 1989 interview with Gladys Knight and the Pips.
The group had just signed with MCA Records to release their final album, 1988’s All Our Love. It included the singles “Lovin’ On Next to Nothin'” and their Grammy-winner “Love Overboard.”
In the four years before leaving Columbia and signing with MCA, Knight flirted with Hollywood, starring in the sitcom “Charlie and Co.” and several TV movies. She also joined Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick and Elton John in 1985 for the anthem “That’s What Friends Are For.”
Our RadioScope writer sat down with Gladys and her brother Bubba Knight of the Pips to talk about their 35 years in the business, Gladys’ approach to acting and their last album as a group before the Empress of Soul embarked on her epic solo career.
The Significance of Oct. 13 for Both Michael Jackson and Prince (EUR Video Throwback)
*It’s been well documented that Prince and Michael Jackson were both personal and professional rivals during the height of their commercial success in the 1980s. But it turns out that both enjoyed significant career markers on the same date, 13 years apart.
On Oct. 13, 1979, Michael Jackson’s single “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” topped Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, becoming his second ever solo number one hit after 1972’s “Ben.” On Oct. 13, 1992, Prince released an album with a symbol on the cover that represented both his new professional name and defiant independence.
“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” also represented independence for Jackson. It was the first track on his fifth studio album “Off the Wall” in 1979, but more importantly, it was the first solo recording over which Jackson had creative control. Critics consider the track to be the first that also showcased Jackson’s talent as a songwriter.
And who can forget the video, with its then state-of-the-art, 1979 green screen graphics and special effects showing Jackson in innovative triplicate.
Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough
“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” went quadruple platinum, topped the chart in nine other countries and earned Jackson his first Grammy.
Meanwhile, the album that came to be known as “Love Symbol” was actually an unpronounceable blend of the male and female gender symbols that Prince had featured on past album covers. He copyrighted an enhanced version of the image under the title “Love Symbol #2,” and began using it as his unpronounceable stage name from 1993 to 2001 in protest of his label, Warner Bros. Records. The label distributed the album, which was released on Oct. 13, 1992 by Prince’s own Paisley Park Records.
Warner Bros. wanted the track “7” to be released as the first single.
Prince – 7
But Prince instead insisted that “My Name Is Prince” be the lead single, arguing that its sound would appeal better to listeners that had enjoyed “Diamonds and Pearls.”
Prince – My Name Is Prince
The “Love Symbol” LP was actually a concept album featuring dancer Mayte Garcia, who would become his wife four years later. In visuals for the album, Mayte played an Egyptian princess who falls in love with a rock star (Prince) and entrusts him with a religious artifact, the Three Chains of Turin (or track “Three Chains o’ Gold”). She is eventually captured, then escapes from seven assassins, as referenced in “7.”
The original cut of the album had eight spoken segues to help tell this story, but most of them had to be cut for time when Prince decided to add one last song, “I Wanna Melt With U,” instead of making it the B-side to the “7” maxi single, as was the original plan.
Prince – Eye Want 2 Melt With U (Live 1992)
MJ reportedly said that Prince was “nasty” and “one of the rudest people I’ve ever met.” Although Prince and MJ were rivals, they were respectfully competitive. Prince’s good friend Tavis Smiley told Conan O’Brien that Prince was devastated by Jackson’s death and “[locked] himself literally in his room for days, and didn’t come out. Didn’t talk to anybody.”
There are videos of Prince playing Michael Jackson songs in concert as a salute to the King of Pop following his death. Below is one of them.
Prince dips into the MJ song that reached number one on the very date that he would release his pivotal “Love Symbol” album 13 years later.
Prince – Medley: Cool, Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough (at the 23 second mark)
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