Originally a chantoozy in pre-rock rhythm and blues
. She didn't really hit it big, though. Her lasting contribution to rock and roll
was the Mickey and Sylvia classic chalypso
-grooved "Love is Strange" 45
, done with jazz guitarist Mickey Baker.
Sylvia later semi-retired to New Jersey, and eventually became one of the first woman owners of an indie label (All Platinum and Vibration, et al, in the late 60s). Her biggest solo hit came in the early 70s - "Pillow Talk", a classic in its own right.
A chance hearing of a tape by the Cold Crush Brothers led to her getting in on the ground floor of a new medium - rap. Her Sugar Hill Records released "Rapper's Delight", a phenomenon that beat NYC's Big Names to the marketplace punch. Grandmaster Flash and his Furious Five later signed on; "The Message" was, perhaps, the first big serious hip-hop hit ("Rapper's Delight" was more of a novelty). Flash soon left for major-label Elektra, but Sylvia had become established enough to handle losing her biggest-name artiste; she got to keep the Furious Five (with "Grandmaster" Melle Mel taking front-and-center).
Not-a-classic was her 80s answer song to Mel Brooks' "It's Good to Be the King" rap (from the soundtrack to his film History of the World Part I). How can you top the microphone skills of Mr. Brooks? Why bother trying?