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Sylvia Blagman Syms

A jazz saloon singer with a gift for connecting with her audiences, Sylvia Blagman Syms continued performing despite ill health and was praised as one of the greats by performers that included Billie Holliday, Frank Sinatra, and Duke Ellington. Syms spent her teenage years sneaking into saloon coatrooms on Fifty-Second Street to listen to jazz musicians and by her mid-twenties was performing in clubs herself, recording her first single, “I’m in the Mood for Love.” In 1949, she was discovered by Mae West, who became her mentor, and began performing on stage, film, and television. Success came with her 1956, double-time recording of “I Could Have Danced All Night,” which sold more than a million copies, and she went on to record fifteen albums, including one directed by Frank Sinatra. Despite emphysema and lung cancer, she continued to perform both in nightclubs and in musical theater. In the 1980s, she taught master classes at Northwood Institute in Dallas. A dynamic performer to the end, Syms died of a heart attack while receiving a standing ovation at the Algonquin Hotel in New York.

More on Sylvia Blagman Syms
Sylvia Blagman Syms circa 1946-1948
Full image
Sylvia Syms and Bob Wyatt, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948.
Photograph by William Gottlieb, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.
Date of Birth
December 2, 1917
Place of Birth
New York, New York
Date of Death
May 10, 1992

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Sylvia Blagman Syms." (Viewed on January 18, 2018) <>.


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