Sylvia Robinson, Sultry Singer & Hip-Hop Visionary, Dead at 75

Gone But Not Forgotten: Music Stars We Lost in 2011

SYLVIA ROBINSON, Sept. 29  An R&B singer-songwriter who influenced the direction of early hip-hop, passed away at 75 of congestive heart failure. Along with her husband Joe Robinson, the singer founded Sugar Hill Records and produced "Rapper's Delight," the breakout single from Sugar Hill Gang.

Sylvia Robinson, a sultry voiced R&B singer who later formed Sugar Hill Records and dreamed up the first commercial hit in the rap genre, died Thursday at a New Jersey hospital. She was 75. An unconfirmed report from The Urban Daily lists conjestive heart failure as the cause of death.

As an artist, Robinson had success dating back to the mid-1950s, with No. 1 R&B hit "Love Is Strange" as part of the duo Mickey & Sylvia (with Mickey Baker). Other early hits include 1957's "There Ought to Be a Law" and "Baby You're So Fine," released in 1961.

She married Joe Robinson in 1964 and the two formed All Platinum Records and they released her solo hit "Pillow Talk," which rose the Billboard charts in the Spring of 1973. Laced with sexy aahs, moaning and a danceable groove, "Pillow" was actually written for Al Green but he passed on religious grounds. Many of her hits carried a common bedroom theme and included titles like "Love on a Two Way Street," "Sexy Mama" and "Had Any Lately."

Her greatest impact, however, came after she and her husband formed Sugar Hill Records in 1979 and ushered in the rap genre with the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." As the story goes, Robinson overheard people rapping at a disco party in Harlem and she decided to form a group. After finding Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee, they improvised lyrics over a Chic song ("Good Times") and the rest is history.

She later continued her popularization of the genre by signing the groundbreaking Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to the label. Her contributions have earned Robinson the worthy title, the "Mother of Hip-Hop."

Stay tuned for a longer obituary about this R&B and rap legend.


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.