Crate Digger: SYLVIA SYMS Each Day
Sylvia Syms Each Day (Decca/Brunswick) 1956
Sylvia Syms was a Jazz singer, she worked the clubs in New York from the late 40s until Atlantic City and Vegas swept the scene away. She is not to be confused with the English actress of the same era, many including me have made this mistake in the past. Discovered (allegedly) just after the war by the one and only Mae West, but like many things in the post-war landscape, this may have been a fantasy created to paper over the reality of life and the struggle to gain a foothold in a country recovering from war. She was friends (allegedly) with everyone from Blue-eyed Frankie Sinatra upward and a confidante of the person Norma Jean Baker made herself. Sylvia herself however never reached those heights.
What is indisputable is that Sylvia Blagman at some point became Sylvia Syms, and at some point signed to Decca Records and released her version of Each Day. In doing so it joined the long list of great R&B tunes whitewashed for consumption by middle-class Americans and other markets further afield.
Each Day is a fantastic song, it’s a proper barnstormer with a backbeat that holds you, a string bass pulling at your guts, horns that punch you in the head, amazing close harmony backing, a great lyric of a woman hopelessly in love with her man, sung with fantastic passion and feeling. Well, at least the original by Ann Cole that came out in the same year on small independent label Baton does. Sylvia can’t match it.
It’s not only whitewashed for white audiences, it’s watered down to a thin insipid gruel of a song. The singing is shrill and bright, more Doris Day than anything, the brass sounds bright and cheap, the backing stiff and lacking any feeling. All the sass is gone all the promise, the slap, the tickle, the sex is missing. It wasn’t a hit, she had just one of those, a version of ‘I could have danced all night’ from the musical ‘My Fair Lady’. Material that suited her way better than this.
It’s not Sylvia’s fault. She was doing exactly what was expected of her. It’s not artistry, it’s what white audiences demanded. In 1956 Black performers had to be safe, as nonthreatening as Nat King Cole. There is an argument that America still demands this to this day, just take a look at the video for Donald Glover’s ‘This is America’ or the controversy that ‘WAP’ caused as an example.
This version has its fans, mainly in Belgium and mainly in the Popcorn Scene but I’m not one of them.
I sold a copy of this record just the other day. A British issue on Brunswick in Near Mint condition. The only copy I had ever seen of it and the only copy that people who have looked at way more records than I had ever seen. It was probably one of the rarer records I have ever come across and I sold it cheap. I didn’t care about it in the slightest, and I never will. Adios Sylvia, I will stick with Ann.
SYLVIA SYMS Each Day
Written-By Bob Kornegay, Paul Winley
“Crate Digger Confidential…A Lifelong obsession with plastic discs laid bare. Don’t expect just reviews of records, it’s much more important to me than that.“