Sylvester Rivers

Composer, Producer & Arranger

Biography of Sylvester Rivers

Composer, producer, arranger and pianist Sylvester Rivers has recorded with numerous hit artists including Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, The Jacksons, Dionne Warwick, Nancy Wilson, Kenny Rogers, New Edition, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Martha Reeves, Lamont Dozier, Barry White, the Love Unlimited Orchestra, Shalamar, Cheryl Lynn, Gloria Gaynor, Candi Staton, The Sylvers, Marc Bolan & T. Rex, Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio, Deniece Williams, Johnny Mathis, Billy Preston, Syreeta Wright, Michael Henderson, Earl Klugh, Stanley Turrentine, Najee, Maxine Nightingale, Aretha Franklin, The Fifth Dimension and many others.

Born in Detroit, Michigan and a Cass Tech graduate, Sylvester Rivers began playing the piano at the age of seven and was recording professionally by the time he was a teenager. In the early days, he played for Holland-Dozier-Holland’s labels on such hits as the Honeycone’s, “Want Ads,” Freda Payne’s, “Bring the Boys Home” and hits for other artists, including the Chairmen of the Board, 100 Proof Aged in Soul, and the 8th Day.

After arriving in Los Angeles in 1974, Rivers began playing on recording sessions for an even wider range of artists, from Bobby Vinton to Johnny Mathis. Rivers also worked often with the famous arranger, Gene Page. He then expanded into television and film, playing on the theme of the television series, “The Love Boat” and the Richard Pryor film, “Which Way Is Up,” among many others.

At this point, Rivers began to focus more on arranging and orchestrating.  He arranged and orchestrated for numerous artists, including Nancy Wilson and scored his first Number 1 R&B and Top Twenty Pop hit with Candi Staton’s, “Young Hearts Run Free” and later scored again with her hit single, “Victim.”  He quickly followed with another Top Twenty Pop hit, High Inergy’s, “You Can’t Turn Me Off (In the Middle of Turning Me On.”  Soon thereafter, he received his first composer’s credit for a gold record, the title cut of the Michael Henderson album, “In the Night-Time.”  Rivers arranged and orchestrated for the television series, “Fame,” songs for the Kevin Bacon/ Laurence Fishburne film, “Quicksilver,” the film, “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” the television show, “The Arsenio Hall Show” and numerous others. He continued recording with major artists in the studio, working with Kenny Rogers on the Platinum album, “Share Your Love” bearing the single, “Through the Years,” Lionel Richie and Diana Ross on the “Endless Love” soundtrack and the Multi-Platinum New Edition album, “New Edition,” among others.

Sylvester Rivers occasionally toured as music director with artists including Ray Parker, Jr., (“Ghostbusters”), with whom he also recorded, and he conducted the world tour of Soul II Soul (“Back to Life”).  Back in the studio, Rivers expanded once again, this time into composing and arranging television scores, including the syndicated sports program, “The Other Side of Victory,” hosted by the late Arthur Ashe and later by sports commentator, James Brown. He arranged and orchestrated music for the ABC production of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey’s, “The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour.”  Rivers composed and produced the score for MLK: A Dream Deferred, which featured Halle Berry, Regina King and Isaiah Washington. Sylvester Rivers is a board member of ASMAC (American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers).  

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