On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the theatre at the University of Sussex is playing host to an interdisciplinary academic conference. Its subject is disco, and today, more specifically, the singer Sylvester. There are papers delivered on his image, his exclusion from the traditional black press in the 1970s, the way his sound evolved, his “refusal to be reduced to social category” and the “polychromatic mutual interdependence” of his music. The conference’s subject always took fame as his due, fitting reward for his own indisputable fabulousness. “He was the kind of guy who was living that fantasy from early on – even as a teenager, he already thought he was in a movie in which he was the fabulous star,” says Joshua Gamson, a professor of sociology at the University of San Francisco and author of the acclaimed book The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco. “So when it hit, it wasn’t too hard for him to inhabit that new rule.” Still, you do wonder if even he might raise a perfectly pencilled eyebrow at how he is being discussed 30 years after his death. Certainly, posterity and academic analysis were not on anyone’s mind during… Read full this story
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