A few weeks ago, I found myself in Cleveland, Ohio. My buddy Matt Wardlaw invited me to his hometown for some bro hangin’, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame sightseein’, greasy food eatin’ and record shoppin’. How could a Blerd say no?

In the process of buying so much music that I needed to buy a second bag to take my stuff home, I came across one of those rare finds for music nerds-an album that I had no idea even existed before that fateful afternoon. The name might not be immediately familiar to some of you-Phylicia Allen. Change that last name to Rashad and you have the only album by one of the grande dames of African-American acting as well as the sitcom alpha mom of the Eighties; “The Cosby Show”‘s Clair Huxtable, attorney-at-law.

Back in 1978, Phylicia Allen was not yet a television or Broadway star, but she was married to Victor Willis, the original lead singer of the Village People (apparently they weren’t all gay). Willis hooked his wife up with Jacques Morali (the guy who created the Village People, co-wrote their music and produced it), and the combo conjured up Josephine Superstar, a concept album paying tribute to trailblazing actress Josephine Baker. String together the words “disco concept album” and “Josephine Baker tribute”, and you don’t exactly have the makings of a hit album on your hands, and Josephine Superstar was definitely a stiff (there’s a reason so few people know of this album’s existence.)

Unless you’re a fan of disco or high camp (the two aren’t mutually exclusive, you know), Josephine Superstar will probably be a painful listening experience for you. That’s not to say that the album’s bad in and of itself, though. By paying tribute to an icon and inspiration for Black actresses, Phylicia and co.’s heart was certainly in the right place. Besides, Phylicia was no slouch as a singer. Of course, the world knows her as an actress, but the woman can carry a tune. She’s got a unique voice and can really belt. Check out this clip of her singing “Two Loves Have I”.

The fact that I located Josephine Superstar was a definite fluke-in years of record shopping, I’d never seen it before and I likely will never see it again. Apparently, Phylicia herself doesn’t take too kindly to mentions of the album. She’s reportedly ended interviews after the album’s been brought up. Hey, people have made worse career decisions (personally, I’d be more embarrassed by having married the cop from the Village People) and everyone has a skeleton or two in the closet. Embrace Josephine Superstar, Mrs. Huxtable! Give in to the disco!!

 

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