I played this song on Sunday, and it’s put me on a major Sylvester kick this week. Dude was exactly who and what he wanted to be: tall, strong and physically imposing, delicately beautiful, firey like a pentecostal preacher, flashy like a disco queen. There was and has been no one like him since he died from AIDS complications at the way-too-young age of forty-one in the late 80s.
His version of ‘Southern Man’ isn’t just the definitive version of Neil Young’s song because of how musically perfect it is; it’s because it was UNBELIEVABLY ballsy for a six-foot-something black man in women’s clothes to open his DEBUT record, in 1973 no less, by wailing out these lyrics in the strongest falsetto anyone’s ever heard: “Southern man better keep your head. Don’t forget what your good book said. Southern change gonna come at last. Now your crosses are burning fast. / I saw cotton, and I saw black. Tall white mansions and little shacks. Southern man, when will you pay them back?”
Sylvester is my hero.