How I Discovered And Fell In Love With Phyllis Hyman » VSB

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How I Discovered And Fell In Love With Phyllis Hyman

I remember the first time I heard a Phyllis Hyman song. This was in March 2006 at my boy Tim’s condo. He’d turned his second bedroom into a makeshift studio and we did a lot of writing and producing in that room. At the time, he was the producer and I was just learning the basics of sampling and producing and had been doing songwriting. We were looking to actually release an album with him on the beats and me on the notepad. Eventually our album dreams started to dissipate as I delved head first into production and discovered my love for creation. Tim’s condo is where I honed my craft and took the baton and started running.

Tim’s house is also the place where his Apple Mac erased and corrupted my iPod of the 25,000 songs and playlists I’d meticulously arranged and organized. That was a very sad, sad day. Neither of us said much after that. I just went home with an empty iPod and a broken heart.

But this particular day, I showed up and he had Phyllis Hyman’s “Don’t Tell Me, Tell Her” playing on his KRK speakers. Until this day, I’d never heard of her which is amazing in retrospect. I had become a pretty voracious crate digger via both the internet and mom and pop shops. My old school collection was a thing of wonder, but somehow I’d never actually (knowingly) head a song by this woman. Even then I wasn’t completely wowed by what I heard. I asked who it was and what he was going to do with the beat, if anything. I don’t remember if he had any plans and if he did, I don’t think they ever materialized.

After that evening, I went to Tower Records – remember those? – and while perusing the stacks for some new album to purchase I ran across a greatest hits album called Love Songs. I figured why not and picked it up.  I was heading to New York City (Brooklyn to be exact) the next day to visit my then-girlfriend and needed some new music to listen to during the drive. This was also during the time when bootleg albums were a thing and I’d procured a link to T.I.’s King album that would be released in a few weeks. Little did I know my life was going to change.

Of course, on that ride up I threw in King first. That album was monumental in my life. It felt like Atlanta to me. I felt like I was riding down MLK Blvd on the Westside. It felt so super authentic to me. I love that album to this day and it had what would be the song of the year in 2006, “What You Know”. About an hour and some change into my trip, I reached the last toll booth in Maryland before entering Delaware and changed CD’s and put in Phyllis Hyman’s Love Songs.

The very first song on that album is “Be Careful (How You Treat My Love)”. This song took me from being a person that didn’t know who she was to feeling a personal loss to my life and soul in four minutes and nineteen seconds. I actually shed a tear before the song was over. That’s how powerful her voice was to me. She hit a note at around the three minute and thirty-five second mark that almost made me pull over. I’m not making any of this up. This is how much of an effect that one song had on my soul. I must have played it on repeat at least ten times. Then I let the rest of the album play and was annoyed with myself that I’d gone this long in life (I was 27 at this point) without Phyllis Hyman. I questioned friendships of mine. I questioned my parents as to how they could make a thing like Kenny G a thing in my house but nobody ever played Phyllis Hyman.

Kenny G.

By the time I got to NYC I was a changed man. I pulled up to park on Bergen Street and had to reflect for a moment on what I’d listen to. And that voice. My goodness that voice was sent from heaven. From that day forward, any time a person asked me who my favorite singers were I had to amend my list that was previously solely reserved for Donny Hathaway to include Phyllis Hyman. And much like Donny, to me, Phyllis could do no wrong. There wasn’t a single song of hers – despite much of her music falling in that adult contemporary category – that I didn’t love because her voice was so pure to me.

I even remember the first time I heard her song, “The Answer Is You” on the radio. I was pissed AGAIN that I didn’t know this song.

Since 2006, Phyllis Hyman has been in constant rotation in both my life and stereo. When I’m feeling down I listen to her to pick me up, which is odd (I know) considering that her own music had a super sombre tone to it, much like Donny Hathaway. (And much like Donny in 1979, she committed suicide in 1995.)

My life has been made better by the addition of Phyllis Hyman. Her music, her soul, her voice, her passion, her authenticity. Just her.

Phyllis Hyman, I thank you for the gift you gave to the world when you were here. And I appreciate how you’ve moved my life since you’ve been gone.

Like she sang in “The Answer Is You”, “…where have you been all my life?”

That’s how I felt when I really listened and I haven’t been the same since.

Thank you, Phyllis Hyman for sharing.

You are appreciated.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at

  • Medium Meech

    Ha! Hyman… Giggity

  • miss t-lee

    Love me some Phyllis Hyman.
    “Don’t Tell Me, Tell Her” is a fave.
    Along with the extended version of “You Know How to Love Me”, and “The Night Bird Gets The Love”.
    Can only listen to her for short periods of time though. she’ll take you on an emotional journey.

    • QuirlyGirly

      I love “You Know How to Love Me”.

      When she hits that.. Ain’t no denyinnnnnnnnnnnnn” I am right there with her!

      • miss t-lee

        Yes ma’am!!!!!

      • Tonia682

        I can remember doing homework while this was on the radio…love this song!!

    • TeeChantel

      “No One Can Love You More”

      ….No one is wanted more than I want you…No one is needed more than I do.

      I’m done.

      • miss t-lee


    • Yogiyb8

      I totally lost all cool points whenever “You Know How to Love Me” comes on in a store. My secret soloist comes out and I’m singing and dancing like a fool. Love her!!

      • miss t-lee

        I respect it. ?

  • QuirlyGirly

    Phyllis Hyman is amazing. You can hear her emotions thru her songs

  • Jocelyn

    I discovered Phyllis early in life. She was a prominent part of my late aunt’s record collection. Her voice was so rich. I applaud you on listening to her music to lift your spirits. When she belts out “Living All Alone”, I swan dive into my feelings.

    • miss t-lee

      I can’t even hardly listen to that song.
      All of the feels.

      • Jocelyn

        I’m humming it as I leave work. This is going to be a long evening.

        • miss t-lee

          Hang in chica.

          • Jocelyn

            Thanks! We gone be alright…

            • miss t-lee

              Yes, indeed.

    • Cake211

      That’s my favorite song of hers, as well as her rendition of Betcha By Golly Wow.

  • TeeChantel

    Yes, my father listened to her while I was growing up. I only wish she’d known how much she was appreciated…perhaps she would have lived a longer life. She is actually my uncle’s (he’s related to me by marriage) first cousin. She was such an amazing, beautiful woman.

  • Cake211

    As someone who sings and writes, and who has mental illnesses, Phyllis Hyman and Donny Hathaway are my heroes. Knowing that even while battling illnesses that can consume you, they were able to channel it into art that has such a profound impact on people. They’re the reason why I started to take my recovery more seriously.

    • panamajackson

      Do you have music we can hear?

      • Cake211

        Unfortunately nothing that’s prepared to be shared right now. It’s coming along, slowly but surely.

        • panamajackson

          As long as you’re working!

        • Aye Bee

          Slow and steady wins the marathon. Life is a journey and glad you are working toward recovery and found something that works for you! So happy for you!

  • Ille Jay

    She was more my Mother’s speed…she would play a bevy of those 70’s & 80’s R&B Kings and Queens, some stukk…some didn’t, in my head. My Love for Stevie Wonder began in this way…Anita Baker, Luther The Emotions & The Isley Brothers stood out. But she would particularly perk up during a Phyllis Hyman song or two I can’t pinpoint…could be because they had the same name!

    • TeeChantel

      Same. A guy I dated a few years ago put me on to Minnie Ripperton’s “Inside My Love”. Her vocals on the track are beyond amazing.

      • miss t-lee

        My fave track by Minnie is “Everytime He Comes Around”.

        • Val
          • miss t-lee

            Also good. ?

          • TeeChantel

            Yes! This is a classic!

          • Tonia682

            My mom loved that song. It’s a classic.

        • TeeChantel

          Yes, indeed. This is a great one.

      • DB

        It is kind of sad that to a certain segment of people she is best known as Maya Rudolph’s mother.

  • YES!!!!! I have multiple posts dedicated to Phyllis and her awesomeness.

  • MissG

    My mom LOVES Phyllis Hyman, so we grew up on her. Everybody that knows my mom, knows that about her. I remember many a Saturday afternoon cleaning w/ Phyllis blasting in the background. NOBODY sings/sang like she did. We lived in the suburbs of Philly so when she passed, we all felt the loss. A few years ago, at my cousin’s wedding, she requested & pulled my dad onto the dance floor to dance to “The Answer is You”. It was a tad embarrassing to say the least. LOL. *cues up my Phyllis Hyman Spotify playlist*.

  • Glockenspiel

    My mom used to play the heck outta some Phyllis Hyman; Meet me on the Moon is my ish! ust last year I picked up one of her albums on vinyl

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