Sylvester James was the undisputed King and Queen of disco. He strove for fame, fortune and freedom during a time when it was highly unlikely for a large, openly gay, sometimes in drag, African American male to make it in the world of entertainment. But with a powerhouse falsetto voice to back him up, thats exactly what Sylvester did. On this ground-breaking episode of Unsung, Sylvesters family takes us to his childhood home and the church where it all began in Los Angeles, California. We visit his old neighborhood and the Palm Lane Church of God where he got his start in singing and performing in the choir, becoming a gospel sensation around town. But it was also here where Sylvester would learn that being different was both a challenge and an opportunity for someone with courage and personal flair.
Moving to San Francisco, Sylvester began his rise to stardom performing with a theater troupe which ultimately led to a recording contract. Gold albums, movie roles, and TV appearances followed. Then the glow faded as he endured the loss of close friends through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Sylvester ultimately succumbed to the disease as well, while leaving a legacy of music which embodied a generations determination to live their lives on their own terms. Now, through interviews with music colleagues such as Narada Michael Walden, The Pointer Sisters, Martha Wash and Jeanie Tracey, along with close family members and friends, Unsung chronicles a music career which reached heights that few expected, but in retrospect was fully earned.
Note: TVOne has removed the Sylvester Unsung Episode. From time to time, it reappears and we will be on the lookout for it. In the meantime, please check out a few alternatives below.
TVOne’s UNSUNG Features Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical
BBC – Mighty Real Sylvester James [Full Documentary]
Sylvester (DISCO DIVA) Mini Documentary