Phyllis Hyman

Phyllis Hyman

Phyllis Hyman was born in 1949 in Philadelpha, Pennsylvania and raised in Pittsburgh. Her father was Italian and her mother was black. Her involvement with music started when she earned a scholarship to a music school.

She began touring nationally in 1971 after she graduated from school and worked with the group New Direction. Over the next few years, Hyman worked with several groups, joining All The People and working with The Hondo Beat. She even did a two-year project with a band called Phyllis Hyman and the P/H Factor.

Moving to New York City, Hyman did background vocals for Jon Lucien's album Premonition and worked in clubs. While performing in a club, Norman Connors spotted Hyman and invited her to perform on his next album, You Are My Starship. Hyman agreed and was featured on the album in 1976.

In 1977, Hyman made her solo debut with her self-titled album on the Buddah label. When Buddah was acquired by Arista, they took over her contract and she released the album Somewhere In My Lifetime in 1979. The album featured production by Barry Manilow but lacked solid direction.

Hyman scored her first Top Ten hit in 1981 with 'Can't We Fall In Love Again,' a duet with Michael Henderson. At that time, Hyman was also performing on Broadway in the musical Sophisticated Ladies. She received a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and later took the lead role in the Las Vegas production.

Conflicts arose between Hyman and Arista, creating a long gap in her work. Yet disputes over her contract prevented Hyman from working with other labels. Nevertheless, Hyman worked on soundtracks during this time and did guest vocals for a wide range of artists including Barry Manilow, Lonnie Liston Smith, The Whispers and The Four Tops.

Finally, escaping the shackles of Arista in 1985, Hyman released her album Living All Alone. The album scored hits with 'Old Friend,' 'You Just Don't Know' and the title track 'Living All Alone.'

In 1991, Hyman hit the right spot with her album, Prime of My Life. The album scored a #1 hit on the R&B charts with 'Don't Wanna Change The World' and had Top Ten hits with the tracks 'When You Get Right Down To It' and 'Living In Confusion.'

Unfortunately, Hyman's life began to spiral into a whirl of struggles after the success of Prime of My Life. Her mother, grandmother and close friend all died in the span of a month in 1993. In addition, she was struggling with bipolar disorder, depression, alcoholism and financial troubles. She was exhausted from constant efforts to lend her talent at AIDS benefit concerts and support groups. Hyman's struggles culminated on June 30, 1995 when Hyman committed suicide with vodka and an overdose of sleeping pills. She wrote a suicide note which read 'I'm tired. I'm tired. Those of you that I love know who you are. May God bless you.'

In November of the same year, I Refuse To Be Lonely was released. The album struck a chord, as given the context, many of the songs resonated with hints of the tragedy that was brewing.

Three years after Hyman's death in 1998, an album of unreleased songs titled Forever With You was released. While Hyman was often overlooked during her career, she was well-liked and respected by many famous musicians. Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack and George Benson often attended her performances and she was one of Bill Cosby's favorite singers and opening acts.