Gone But Not Forgotten: Phyllis Hyman
July 6, 1949 - June 30, 1995
Phyllis Hyman's influence on songstresses from Anita Baker to Tamia is evident, and her music has aged wonderfully, much of it sounding as engaging now as it did 20+ years ago.
Phyllis Hyman was born in Philadelphia, PA and grew up in Pittsburgh, PA as the oldest of seven children. Hyman began touring with the group New Direction in 1971, and then with several other groups, All the People, and The Hondo Beat. She also led her own band briefly called Phyllis Hyman and the P/H factor. Around 1975, Hyman moved to the big city, New York, to further her musical career. She began singing background vocals for Jon Lucien, Norman Connors, and Pharoah Sanders and the Fatback Band.
In 1977, she released her first album, Phyllis Hyman, on the Buddah Records label. Buddah became part of the Arista family and Hyman's 2nd album was released in 1978, Somewhere in My Lifetime, produced by Barry Manilow. She made the R&B Top 20 with her next album, You Know How to Love Me.
Hyman got married to manager Larry Alexander and started using cocaine when the marriage ended in divorce. She finally hit the R&B Top Ten with her 1981 duet with Michael Henderson, "Can't We Fall In Love Again." Hyman also was performing in Sophisticated Ladies, a Broadway musical tribute to Duke Ellington. Hyman received a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical and won a Theatre World Award for Best Newcomer.
Hyman's solo career was put on pause for a little while, due to poor relations with Arista Records. During this time, Hyman worked with other musicians, including The Whispers, The Four Tops; and appeared in movie soundtracks and tv commercials.
In 1985, Phyllis Hyman found herself free from Arista and working with Philadelphia International Records. She released Living All Alone in 1986, and then a duet with Barry Manilow for his album Swing Street in 1987. Her 1991 album, Prime of My Life, was the biggest of her career - including her first Billboard Hit and R&B #1, "Don't Wanna Change the World."
Sadly, Phyllis Hyman committed suicide on June 30th, 1995 and the world lost an amazing voice and talent. After her death, several postumous albums were released, including several best-of compilations. Her authorized biography, Strength of a Woman: the Phyllis Hyman Story was published in 2007. Hyman also appeared in five films during her lifetime, including Lenny in 1974 and School Daze in 1988.