When Sylvia Syms died at age 74 in 1992, it marked the loss of a talented performer who was once described by Frank Sinatra as the ‘world’s greatest saloon singer’. But it was also another chance for people to mix her up with the British actress with the same name, something that had been happening for years. (For the record, Sylvia Syms the actress is sill alive and is now in her late seventies.)
Unlike the actress, Sylvia Syms the singer was actually born with a different name, beginning life in Brooklyn as Sylvia Blagman, and even while growing up she sang constantly, performing for family and friends. By the time she was in her late teens she was hanging around New York nightclubs, looking for a way into the booming music scene of the 1930s.
She was eventually befriended and helped along by established star Billie Holiday, and by the early 1940s she’d managed to land her own solo spot in a Manhattan club. It was the beginning of a period that would see her not only become a favorite of New Yorkers, but also a buddy to stars like Sinatra.
She also began to find a lot of success in the recording studio, originally with traditional torch songs but as the years passed she was able to adapt to changing musical styles. She eventually recorded everything from love ballads to upbeat vocals of rock and roll hits, and even though she didn’t ring up huge totals (her one million-seller was “I Could Have Danced All Night”) she had tons of loyal fans. Always at home on stage, it is perhaps fitting that she died while performing at the Algonquin Hotel in New York.
Sylvia Syms – “I Could Have Danced All Night”