06 30 2016
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You know his music, but you don't know him — Sylvester. There was a moment in the 1970s when music and Black culture teetered.


Poised on these twin points, music and Black culture could have toppled into the traditional, the hamstrung, the boring. Now imagine a pied piper singing in falsetto, wearing sequins and leading the young people of the nation to San Francisco and on to a liberation where nothing was straight-laced or old-fashioned.


And everyone, finally, was welcome — to come as themselves. This is not a fairy tale. This was real, mighty real, and disco sensation Sylvester was the piper.


In"TheFabulous Sylvester" (Picador paperback, $15), Yale-trained sociologist Joshua Gamson uses Sylvester's life to lead us through the story of the 1970s, when a generation took off its shame. Celebrity, sociology and music history mingle in this endlessly entertaining story of a singer who embodied the freedom, spirit and flamboyance of a golden moment in American culture.

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