a tale of two women

On June 30, 1995 excitement overflowed for those who had tickets at the nights performance in the famed Apollo Theatre, located in one of America’s most famous neighborhoods. It was little wonder. Thirty days prior, in Emeryville, California, a crossroads of a city in the San Francisco Bay, I sat in the front row with three of my closest friends, trapped in the beauty, the melody and the crumbling world of the late great Phyllis Hyman.  Her voice was so pure, it may have been perfection, if only she understood. Each song was a full-length novel. A broadway show within themselves, all of which were showstopping numbers. They would capture your emotions, and only release when she was ready to let them go. If magic had a singular moment, it was in her pitch-perfect whistling of the magnificent Living All Alone.

The venues where she performed were often sold out,  but she would not find happiness within the adoring crowds, for her sights were set on coliseums and football stadiums, never giving credence to how fortune had smile upon her.  She would dismiss them as failures, never savoring the fruits of her rewards. Her mainstream attempts, would never take off. Forever a wounded singer, unhappy living in the shadows of Whitney and Madonna. But to the fans that knew her music, she was our biggest star. And not until her untimely death, would we ever make a connection, that her ballads were desperate, lonely songs.

With just hours before the curtains scheduled rise, Miss Phyllis Hyman would lose the final battle, giving into the voices of doom, committing suicide in a desolate hotel room, after banishing the beautiful thoughts of the thousands who loved her, and were preparing for one of the world’s great shows.

Overflowing by Ivy Soul does not exist on the same musical plane as a Phyllis Hyman song (excluding her final studio album I Refuse to Be Lonely, which was more of a suicide note. than a musical recording), but that is exactly the point of this post. Overflowing struts the fine line, between an adult contemporary classic and a song that may simply pass through listeners’ ears (not memorable, but not channel changing either). But if you did take a pass, give it a second chance and you may discover a hidden jewel. Not just in the captivating groove of its melody,  or the Anita Baker-like sound of her voice, but in her zest of life. Her love of her artistry blooms, as she loses herself in the emotion of performing a song she feels, and dances like the world already knows who she is. The success of this tune, lies as much with the power of the energy, self-belief and I-am-proud-of-who-I- be, as it does with its engaging charm and body-swaying melody.

Ivy Soul appears to be doing, what many of us, find difficult to do – enjoying life’s journey, celebrating each stop. I have no doubt that her career goals are set at a much higher level, but win or lose, she is having a great time and enjoying the ride.

Overflowing may be hard pressed to land at the top of Billboard’s charts, but humor me in a game of what-ifs. What if Phyllis Hyman had stood in the sand and stared into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and Ivy Soul was performing Overflowing just a few feet away. What if she had been affected by this unknown artist, whose career is just getting started, but found happiness in every milestone What if she had accepted that success is relative and that the dizzying heights reached by the late great Whitney Houston, did not automatically provide the type of happiness that Ms. Hyman perceived it would. What if an ordinary woman, singing an unknown song, without any guarantee that anyone would even hear it, yet delivers a performance as if she were already queen, would Phyllis had realized that inner peace was the antidote to depression, and that the journey is what makes reaching the goal so sweet?

Depression is a brutal child. She blows in like the wind, invisible, but deadly nonetheless. But she can be beat. Celebrate the little things, on second thought, celebrate everything, and perhaps you will discover the importance of believing  in your own beauty, just like an Ivy Soul song.

– a song review by thepublicblogger

35 comments

  1. Phyllis was truly one of the greatest musicians of all times coupled with great beauty. Her music was captivating and soul filled. Love this article letting the world know more about the
    Lady and her Music!!!!

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  2. Phyllis Hyman was a rare jewel in the music spectrum. Her music echoed the highs and lows of a woman who longed for love. Thank you for sharing her with your readers…

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  3. Phyllis Hyman was a rare jewel in the music spectrum. Her music echoed the highs and loves of a woman who longed for love. Thank you for sharing her with your readers…

    Like

  4. I don’t really know much about Phyillis but she had an obvious talent (you can tell by her number of fans), and she was obviously a very attractive lady. It’s so sad when someone who has so much to offer passes away too soon.

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  5. Great story, I also loved Phyllis Hyman, and hate they she left us so soon. I miss her and her music. Her voice was so beautiful. Even as a child her music touch my heart. Thank you.

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  6. Amazing post. I am a huge Phyllis Hyman and know how much her music is needed today. If she and Donny Hathaway had only been able to silence the misery, silence the voices speaking failures how we all could have benefited from their gifts. I suffer from depression and it a daily struggle but I will not allow it to blow out my light in this world.

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  7. I have never heard of either of the singers, but will check out their music. I find your writing very touching, it is rare that depression is handled in the way you have. I remember dinner with friends and Whitney Houston’s name came up, there was scorn all around the table for her inability to appreciate her lot in life, money fame and beauty and her drug addiction and death. This shocked me, as there was a vicious sentiment among my colleagues towards a woman none of us knew, that really made no sense, it also brought home to me again how little tolerance and understanding there is within the population for mental health issues. Also how much fear there is. I have observed this often as a health care professional and I salute your sensitive portrayal of the topic and the two women.

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  8. As a musician having suffered clinical depression for over 30 years, I can understand directly what Phyllis Hyman was dealing with. Nothing is ever good enough and all songs are unfinished. Her voice was unmistakable and I am struck by a large bout of melancholy at the thought of her. Thanks for making sure Ms. Hyman gets remembered by a generation that didn’t really get to enjoy her.

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    • In my sharing of A Tale of Two Women in various social media sites, I actually add on a formal introduction to those who do not know her work. Thank you for adding your voice to this forum and remembering the life a singer with the perfect voice, but could not love her own beauty. So glad you have joined in an impromptu remembrance of a singer that may have one day, made the world stand still.

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  9. Depression can and often does rob people of who they are truly meant to be. Some are fortunate and can beat this crippling condition. The world needs more education/awareness and compassion.

    I truly enjoy your unique style of expression and writing. I love the contrast you provide in this story. It’s sad, but a relevant issue, and very thought provoking.

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  10. I love Phyllis Hyman. Her voice and deliverance of the song she would sing was captivating. There are a few artists that can sing in such a way that you feel exactly what they are going through….you feel the human side of their everyday struggles. I could feel that when Phyllis would sing. With all the glamour she still seemed so sad. Some of us get so caught up in chasing a dream but dreams come and go, they change….we change. Her life and story shows how important it is to learn to love who we are at this moment and beyond today and well into tomorrow. If we are here tomorrow…there will be another dream to chase!
    I miss Phyllis!!!
    I am not so sure about Ivy Soul…her style of singing feels under-developed to me. But I will continue to give ear to her music. Thanks for the review. Awesome!

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