Song of the Day: Sylvester “Do You Want To Funk”
I often learn something new with the Song of the Day. See as far as most DJs go I fall behind on recalling artist and song information. It wasn’t until I went digital that I actually had to learn song titles and artist’s names. I knew every record by the graphics on the sleeve or label and the song I wanted to play had stickers placed on the drop points. All I knew of “Do You Wanna Funk” was that it was the thumping disco heater at Billy Ray Valentine’s house party in the movie, Trading Places. The tracks was performed by the flamboyant singer, Sylvester. He was known for wearing both men and women’s clothes and singing falsetto. More than that, Sylvester’s life is an enthralling story of a talented singer finding his place in not so kind world and expressing himself with unabashed pride. This is perhaps why Sylvester was referred to as the “Queeen of the Disco.”
Sylvester was born Sylvester James Jr. in 1947 in Los Angeles, CA. He grew up in a middle class African American family and first learned to sing as part of a Pentecostal Church choir. After the Church expressed disapproval of his homosexuality, Sylvester, who came out very early and was an early pride advocate, left the Church and found a new support network among a black cross-dressing and transgender community in Los Angeles that called themselves The Disquotays. Sylvester eventually moved to San Francisco and did a stint as the singer in a little known band called the The Cocketts. When the group failed to break through commercially, Sylvester went solo. Sylvester proved to be an enormous success as a solo disco artist, turning in a strong of hits, including “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”, “Rock The Box” and “Do You Want To Funk”. Sylvester sadly died of AIDS in 1988. His final years were spent as an activist, campaigning against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Sylvester’s importance to disco music, around gay and transgender rights, and in combating the spread of HIV cannot be overstated.
Enjoy this disco masterpiece from the “Queen of Disco”.