Sylvester – You Make Me Feel Mighty Real (and Epilogue)




Listen – Sylvester – You Make Me Feel Mighty Real – MP3″

Listen – Sylvester – You Make Me Feel Mighty Real (Epilogue) – MP3″

Greetings all.
I hope all is well, and that you’ve got your loins girded (or un-girded as the case may be) for the weekend.
I decided to bring the week to an end with one of my all time favorite disco tracks, and a tune that I’ve loved since it came out.
If you’ve followed the Funky16Corners blog, you’ll already know that despite the funk and soul-osity of this blog, my musical tastes range far and wide, and have evolved considerably over the years.
To go back to the statement (no doubt a paraphrase) generally credited to Duke Ellington, there are two basic kinds of music, good and bad, and despite the fact that there are many folks out there that would question my taste – this being a chaque’un a son gout monde, mon freres – I like to think that I get it right a lot of the time.
To those of you to whom the term disco is poison, I ask you to bear with me. To the rest of you, I request only that you make sure that your dancing shoes are on securely.
I’ve broached this particular subject before, but for the many who do not have the time or inclination to hang on my every word, I’ll recap briefly. Like many of my ilk and age group, I was loathe to like much disco, and double-extra-loathe to admit what I did like, through an unpleasant combination of teenage homophobia, warped suburban rockist class consciousness and a misguided longhair’s purism.
As the years have passed, and I have matured (somewhat anyway) I have shed most of the aforementioned stupidity in favor of what might be considered a somewhat more enlightened frame of mind.
As I have also related, back in my teens, when it was all but unheard of among my antisocial circle to like disco, let alone make mention of the fact, there were a couple of records that absolutely blew my mind. ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ by Sylvester is one of those.
Back in the day, when – despite the fact that there weren’t too many cartoons I was interested in on Saturday mornings – I still remained fastened securely to the couch, eyes glued to the television set, with substandard broadcast fare still a superior option to getting up and wandering out into the light of day.
One byproduct of the couch-potato-ness, was the fact that American Bandstand would pop on around noon. Now, as byproducts go, American Bandstand ranks right up there with the kind of things corrupt manufacturers use to stretch dog and cat food. However, in between the Shaun Cassidys, and the Leif Garretts there appeared the occasional gem, like the Fleshtones, and one boring Saturday morning, Sylvester.
Now, I was probably glued to the sofa with a bowl of soggy Captain Crunch, half paying attention, when the polyester form of Dick Clark introduced someone who I’d never heard of, the synths started pumping and Sylvester boogied out onto the stage. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that the studio audience of California teens were as surprised as I was, when what looked like a great big woman (He did say ‘Sylvester’, right?) danced out on the stage and started to tear it up.
I was transfixed.
When I first heard ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’, I was probably 20 years away from hearing the term Hi-NRG, but I think I grokked it anyway, because there is no better example of a genre that carried a name like that than this song.
Oddly enough, I already owned another (maybe the first) example of the genre, in the 45 of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, produced by Giorgio Moroder. Moroder created many hits with the Hi-NRG sound, using electronic keyboards and percussion, and his American counterpart was none other than Sylvester’s producer Patrick Cowley.
Sylvester James got his start in show business as part of the legendary drag troupe the Cockettes, and went on to record a couple of albums with the Hot Band for the Blue Thumb label in the early 70s. By the middle of the decade he had signed to the Fantasy label, and started making some of the most infectious records of the disco era.
‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ appeared on his second LP ‘Step II’ in 1978. It made a minor mark on the pop charts, but held the Number One spot on the Billboard Dance chart for six week in the summer of that year. It went on to become an anthem of sorts, and was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2004.
Bottom line is that ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ is a hard driving record, not only as disco, but as soul. It’s often forgotten – since so much mainstream disco was so formulaic and awful – but there were a lot of great singers, songwriters and producers working in the genre (as well as the many DJs that helped to shape the sound), and Sylvester was in the first rank of vocalists. His singing in general, but especially on this record is a thing to behold, filled with joy and daring, his falsetto soaring over the pulsing beat. It’s hard to listen to ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ and keep from moving. Whether you shift surreptitiously on your seat, or leap up with your freak flag flying high, there is no denying the power of a record like this.
Sadly, Sylvester had a tough time of it, peaking just as the genre was beginning to decline, under pressure from his label to tone down his image, and most tragically succumbing to AIDS at the age of 40 in 1988.
Do yourselves a favor, rip this one to CD, take it out to your car, pop it into the player and drive around with the windows open, playing it at full volume (you’ll probably make the stiffs in your neighborhood a little uneasy, which is always a good thing). You’ll feel a lot better, and you’ll be sending a little Sylvester back out into the ether.
See you on Monday.

PS I’ve also included the Epilogue, which closes out the LP side that starts with ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’.

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for some storming Irish R&Beat

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well (just updated).

14 Responses to “Sylvester – You Make Me Feel Mighty Real (and Epilogue)”

  1. ish Says:

    what an awesome pic of Sylvester!

  2. ally Says:

    fantabulosa darling – we all need to unleash our inner sylvester now and again


  3. Planet Mondo Says:

    Have you heard the mashup of this tune and XTC’s Generals and Majors – you can grab it here if not

  4. Brother Menelik Ebna la-Hakim Says:

    this page is sick, for a vintage head like myself i never knew a gem like this was on wordpress. good work i loved that song by sylvester, still do.
    good write up

  5. E5Rebel Says:

    How about Sylvester’s South African Man?

    SImple message demanding freedom. The power is in the funk, not so much the words.

  6. Eugene Evon Says:

    Hey Larry,
    Merl Saunders just passed away at 74, if you hadn’t heard (,
    Kind of a surprise — although his 2002 stroke set him back a bunch, he was doing fairly well until a nasty infection slammed him in the past couple weeks. He was a huge funky soulful influence in the jamband scene and thank god for that. One of his cover versions of “(I Feel Like) Dynamite” would be right up the Funky 16 corners alley for the Hammond man. Let me know if you need more info on this special guy who bridged the gap between 60s funky soul, far-out Garcia psychedelia, and club-level jam aesthetic. Consider Merl as a man who was bred in Haight-Ashbury (THE man for the Haight Street Fair since forever) as a black soul boogie brother. What a life.

  7. alejandro Says:

    Great, maybe a BT Express post is in the horizon?

  8. funky16corners Says:

    Merl was a fave of mine, especially his Galaxy stuff. I finally scored his first album after years of searching. I’ll have to do a Merl Tribute mix in the next few months.

    BT Express for sure! I love ‘Do It’.

  9. E5Rebel Says:

    SOrry guys Bohanon not Sylvester for South African Man. Used to play them together…

  10. rj Says:

    Right on. 🙂

  11. Sarita Ciarag Says:

    MMmmmmm yummmaaaeeih

  12. Mark aka DJ MarkyTradeMark Says:

    I was fortunate to have seen Sylvester not once, but twice in Vancouver, B.C. at the height of his fame plugging his hits in the local bar. I also spoke to him briefly in San Francisco at the Trocadero in the Haight. When he walked in the club, the DJ played a medley of his hits and of course, Sylvester floated in the room wearing a caftan type robe and a turban.
    His music remains vital and fresh today. I heard he is portrayed in the film, “Milk.” May his vibe and star continue to burn bright!

  13. shane Says:

    I just serendipitously chanced upon this site while doing a little googling about my friend Patrick Cowley, who died in 1982 and, as you know, worked closely with Sylvester. Patrick and I were very close friends who met in college and I have stayed in touch with his family since his death. He was far, far ahead of his time in terms of electronic music – a true original – and although his name is not familiar to many people, I hear a lot of contemporary music that his work foreshadowed, if not directly influenced. Thanks for mentioning him. I was delighted that Sylvester popped up as a character in one scene of “Milk” and, of course, the song being performed was You Make Me Feel Mighty Real.

  14. funky16corners Says:

    Thanks Shane. I’m looking forward to seeing ‘Milk’, especially so now that I know there’s a Sylvester scene.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: