08 JUL 13 JASON SERINUS
Fantasy's recent recent Mighty Real: Greatest Dance Hits shows why every celebrant of the disco era in San Francisco idolized the great Sylvester (1947-1988). The unforgettable, gender-bending, high-flying androgynous Queen of Disco -- part of a vanguard of post-Stonewall, gender-bending, gay performers that included San Francisco's fabulous Cockettes -- Sylvester survived his childhood in the Watts ghetto of Los Angeles to build a singing career that eventually landed him on the sound system of every disco club in the nation.
My own memories of Sylvester include being the performer who preceded him at San Francisco's Castro Street Fair in 1978. The street was packed for blocks, with men who couldn't squeeze into the street hanging out of every open window. It was an incredible show, and very different than seeing him perform gospel in Davies Symphony Hall.
To understand why Sylvester became such a hit, you must hear the 10 original tracks and one new dub mix on Mighty Real. I defy you to remain in your seat as Sylvester dances his way through "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and "Dance (Disco Heat)." Two of the runaway hits that Sylvester and Harvey Fuqua produced for Honey Records Productions in 1977-1980, these are the songs that we danced, pumped and sweated to as the smell of amyl nitrate filled the air. "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" may have been inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2004, but for those of us for whom it became an anthem of sorts, it had already achieved immortality.