Sylvia Robinson, singer, songwriter, record producer and co-founder of Sugar Hill Records died aged 75 from congestive heart failure in New Jersey last week.
Robinson's early career was spent in the duo Mickey and Sylvia and their 1957 track "Love Is Strange" was featured in the film Dirty Dancing. After the duo disbanded, Robinson went solo and had the 1973 hit "Pillow Talk".
It was through work in production that she gained prominence, sampling Chic's "Good Times" for "Rapper's Delight", which helped push the sound she first heard at the Harlem World Club in Manhattan in 1979 into the mainstream. The idea came to her whilst watching DJ Lovebug Starski talking over the records to the audience. In 2005 she told Vanity Fair: "A spirit said to me, 'Put a concept like that on a record and it will be the biggest thing you ever had.'"
The Sugar Hill label she founded with her husband Joe Robinson in 1979 (which came out of the ashes of their first collection of disco labels All Platinum Records) was also responsible for signing Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Robinson produced their track "The Message" which was the first hiphop track to be inducted into the US National Archives. The Sugar Hill Records label eventually folded in 1986 at a similar time to the breakdown of her marriage.
Hiphop author Dan Charnas extensively chronicles the role and influence Robinson had on contemporary hiphop culture in his book The Big Payback: The History Of The Business Of HipHop. Robinson leaves behind three sons and ten grandchildren.