Sylvester always considered himself male and began to tone down the feminine nature of his clothing, aiming for a more androgynous look which combined male and female styles and which was influenced by the fashions of the hippie movement."Sylvester shared the Cockettes' affinity for outrageous flaming, their celebration of sex and gayness, their love of acid and good hash, and their bent movie-musical fantasies.
Now homeless, Sylvester spent much of the next decade staying with friends and relatives, in particular his grandmother Julia, who expressed no disapproval of his homosexuality, having been a friend of a number of gay men in the 1930s.On occasion, he returned to his mother and step-father's house for a few days at a time, particularly to spend time with his younger sisters, Bernadette and Bernadine.He came to front Sylvester and his Hot Band, a rock act that released two commercially unsuccessful albums on Blue Thumb Records in 1973 before disbanding.Focusing on a solo career, Sylvester signed a recording contract with Harvey Fuqua of Fantasy Records and obtained three new backing singers in the form of Martha Wash, Izora Rhodes – the "Two Tons O' Fun" – and Jeanie Tracy.Letha was a devout adherent of the Pentecostal denomination of Christianity, regularly attending the Palm Lane Church of God in Christ in South Los Angeles.
Sylvester and his brothers accompanied her to the church's services, where he developed a particular interest in gospel music.
It's tempting to see them as fearless and heroic, defiant sissies who were forerunners of Stonewall and sixties counterculture, part of the dawning of gay liberation and African-American civil rights organizing." He found work in a variety of different professions, including cooking in Mc Donald's—where he was fired for refusing to wear a hairnet—cashier at an airport parking garage, working in a hair salon, at a department store, and as a make-up artist at a mortuary, preparing the corpses for their funerals.
In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement was at its peak, but Sylvester and his friends did not take an active role within it.
His first solo album, Sylvester (1977), was a moderate success. Distancing himself from the disco genre, he recorded four more albums – including a live album – with Fantasy Records.
This was followed with the acclaimed disco album Step II (1978), which spawned the singles "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and "Dance (Disco Heat)", both of which were hits in the U. After leaving this label, he signed to Megatone Records, the dance-oriented company founded by friend and collaborator Patrick Cowley, where he recorded four more albums, including the Cowley penned hit Hi-NRG track "Do Ya Wanna Funk." An activist who campaigned against the spread of HIV/AIDS, Sylvester died from complications arising from the virus in 1988, leaving all future royalties from his work to San Francisco-based HIV/AIDS charities.
During the Watts Riots between members of the black community and the predominantly white police force, they joined in with the widespread rioting and looting, stealing wigs, hairspray, and lipstick.