The late Sylvia Robinson of Englewood’s Sugar Hill Records will join Rock Hall as Non-Performer

Sylvia Robinson rock hall of fame


The late Sylvia Robinson, whose Englewood-based Sugar Hill Records released landmark rap singles by the Sugarhill Gang (“Rapper’s Delight”) and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five (“The Message”) as well as many other his, will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in the Non-Performers category, this year.

Robinson died in 2011, at the age of 76.

The class of 2022 will also include, in the Performers category, Eminem, Carly Simon, Duran Duran, Pat Benatar, Eurythmics, Lionel Richie and Dolly Parton; in the Musical Excellence category, Judas Priest and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis; as Non-Performers, Allen Grubman and Jimmy Iovine; and as Early Influences, Elizabeth Cotten and Harry Belafonte. (The Non-Performers category is officially known as the Ahmet Ertegun Award.)

The induction ceremony will take place Nov. 5 in Los Angeles.

Rap didn’t begin with “Rapper’s Delight,” but that was the genre’s first hit single. In 1997, when I interviewed Robinson at her Englewood home for The Star-Ledger, she said that she got the idea for the single by hearing rapping at the New York disco Harlem World.

“As I was sitting there, the DJ was playing music and talking over the music, and the kids were going crazy,” she said. “All of a sudden, something said to me, ‘Put something like that on a record, and it will be the biggest thing.’ I didn’t even know you called it rap.”

She put together the Sugarhill Gang trio and produced the single, which became a Top 40 hit.

A few years later, the dark and gritty “The Message” showed the world that rap was not just lightweight entertainment, but could be used to address big issues, as well, with lines such as “I can’t walk through the park, ’cause it’s crazy after dark” and “It’s like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder/How I keep from going under.”

“We didn’t want to do it,” Furious Five member Melle Mel told me in 1997. “Our thing was party tracks and stuff like that. But Mrs. Robinson wanted us to do it.”

Before becoming a record company executive, Robinson was a hitmaker herself, as a member of the duo Mickey & Sylvia (1957’s “Love Is Strange”) and as a solo artist (1973’s “Pillow Talk”).

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