Sunday, 2 December 2012
Sylvia Syms born 2 December 1917
Sylvia Syms (December 2, 1917 - May 10, 1992) was one of America's most distinguished cabaret and jazz singers with a profound appreciation of lyrics. She consistently made self-deprecating references to her physical appearance, yet always sang with extraordinary truth and conviction. Syms released many albums, but never caught on with the general public; however, like a more jazz-oriented Mabel Mercer, she ruled the New York cabaret circuit
She was born Sylvia Blagman in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, she had polio. As a teenager, she went to jazz-oriented nightclubs on New York's 52nd Street, and received informal training from Billie Holiday. In 1941 she made her debut at a club called Billy's Stable.
In 1948, performing at the Cinderella Club in Greenwich Village, she was seen by Mae West, who gave her a part in a show she was doing. It was no particular secret that West surrounded herself with portly women to make herself appear slimmer, and Sylvia's casting was no exception. Mae West gave her the part of Flo the Shoplifter in a revival of Diamond Lil. She subsequently appeared in the regional theatre on many occasions as Bloody Mary in South Pacific and as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!, and also acted in straight roles.
Signed to Decca Records, she had a million-selling record in 1956 with an up-tempo version of "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady, and enjoyed further success with "English Muffins And Irish Stew" and "It's Good To Be Alive".
Frank Sinatra called her the "Buddha" on account of her short "beer barrel" stature, but he was one of her greatest admirers, hailing her as "the best saloon singer in the world". He also produced her 1982 album Syms By Sinatra. In the late 80s and early 90s, Syms still performed occasionally at intimate venues such as Eighty Eight's, Michael's Pub, and Freddy's in New York, where sensitive audiences thrilled to her tasteful selections, which included such delights as "Skylark", "You Are Not My First Love", "I Want To Be Yours", "Fun To Be Fooled", "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry", "It Amazes Me", and "Pink Taffeta".
She died of a heart attack while performing a tribute programme to Frank Sinatra in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan, aged 74. (info from Wikipedia & Encyclopedia Of Popular Music)
Sylvia Syms guests on Buddy Barnes Video from 1983 singing "My Ship". Buddy Barnes on piano. Impeccable phrasing as always.