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  • Jeremy Wells

Queen of Disco - Sylvester

Born Sylvester James Jr. in 1947--a virgo--in Los Angeles, was a man who regularly faced complete ignorance and bigotry but chose to stand against it and make his career soar anyway. He grew up in a house that his biological father abandoned, went to a church that--despite his sheer talent for vocal control and ability to produce musical magic that incites a surplus of overflowing positive emotion and harmony--shunned him for his homosexuality and effeminacy after being unfortunately molested by one of the congregation members. But he was strong. And courageous. After moving in with his grandmother, who'd been graciously accepting of his open gayness including his desire to dress in women's clothes--undeterred by California's inhumane transvestism laws, Sylvester used his talent to become a radical visionary of music and identity; performance and authenticity. Even befriending legends such as Etta James, Sylvester had a domineering performance style and a musically rich range of voice that mixed soulful gospel with eargasmic falsetto and smooth r&b that was truly astonishing.

"If there was one artist ... who truly exemplified disco's new language of ecstasy it was Sylvester, whose use of his gospel trained falsetto in the service of gay desire and pleasure is surely the most radical rewrite of pop's lingua franca ever attempted." - Peter Shapiro

He came to slay the scene with his biggest disco hits in the 70s--“You Make Me Feel Mighty Real”, “Dance (Disco Heat)”, and “Body Strong". His voice was so versatile that he later joined a rock band that covered a plethora of amazing covers--yet was unable to perform them because of the clothes he decided to wear on stage.

The world was blinded by their ignorance and stupidity, intimidated by Sylvester's talent and colorful personality, and far-behind Sylvester's transcendent and forward-thinking musicality, fashion and intrepidity. He was a beautiful soul and the largest inspiration and muse to one of our faves, the late Prince. This year, as we march in the San Diego Pride Parade, let us do so with all of the black feminine excellence that is Sylvester. For when we walk boldly, without fear or shame in who we are or what we wear, without having to worry about code-switching to our 'trade' voice. We shine rainbow flavored light into the darkest closets around the world and give all LGTBQIA+ people, whether masculine, feminine, both or neither, the pride to stand up in who they want to be.

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