The Monday celebration of Phyllis Hyman is both long overdue and eminently timely. The dynamic artist was ahead of her time. Hyman combined a stunning and statuesque beauty with a seemingly effortless vocal range, incomparable interpretive ability, and a mastery of multiple musical genres, not to mention a flair for the dramatic. What fans may not know is that Hyman was also a savvy and conscientious businesswoman who ran her own management and publishing company, and was passionate about Black empowerment and entrepreneurship. “I run a Black owned company, in other words it’s a minority-based company, most of my employees are Black or Hispanic,” Hyman told Ebony/Jet Showcase in 1987. “And I deliberately started that years ago because of the unfortunate dilemma of minorities in the workforce. And in the entertainment field where Blacks generate billions of dollars, we don’t often get the opportunity to reap the benefits from that money that we generate. And considering that I generate part of that billion, I’m gonna take it back to the community that put me here in the first place. It’s very important to me.”
In all of her transactions, Phyllis was firmly committed to hiring professionals of color at a time when few other Black artists were making that choice. She wanted to “fight the power,” and keep cash within the community, and was vocal in her business dealings and in interviews about her standards. In addition, she famously eschewed written contracts, saying “My word is my bond.” Her former business associates confirm that the singer never went back on her word. In full command of every aspect of her career, Hyman embodied the incipient spirit that we now know as “Black Girl Magic.”
About Phyllis Hyman – Born July 6, 1949, in Philadelphia, Phyllis was raised in Pittsburgh and began singing at a young age. She sang with the group New Direction, All the People, and as part of a vocal group called The Hondo Beat before fronting the band Phyllis Hyman and the P/H Factor, which proved extremely popular. Hyman moved to New York City where she was spotted by noted musician and producer Norman Connors, who asked her to sing on his You Are My Starship project (1976). She performed a duet with Michael Henderson on the title track and also sang a version of the Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly Wow.” The project effectively launched her recording career. Her self-titled debut album was released on the Buddah label in 1977, followed by Sing A Song in 1978. Transferred to Arista, Phyllis released Somewhere in My Lifetime (1978). You Know How To Love Me (1979), Can’t We Fall In Love Again? (1981), and Goddess of Love (1983). Signed to Philadelphia International Records, she released Living All Alone (1986), Prime of My Life (1991), I Refuse to Be Lonely (1995). Sadly, Phyllis took her own life in June of 1995. Forever With You was released posthumously in 1998.