I Refuse to Be Lonely

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I Refuse to Be Lonely: Phyllis Hyman's Last Album

On the afternoon of June 30, 1995, six days before her 46th birthday, Phyllis Hyman died by suicide after overdosing on a mixture of Tuinal and vodka in the bedroom of her New York City apartment at 211 West 56th Street. She was found unconscious at 2:00 p.m. (EDT) and died at 3:50 p.m. at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital (now Mount Sinai West) hours before she was scheduled to perform at the Apollo Theater. Her suicide note read in part:

I'm tired. I'm tired. Those of you that I love know who you are. May God bless you.

Hyman suffered from bipolar disorder and depression for years, having been diagnosed in the 1980s. She often self-medicated with alcohol and drugs, and frequently spoke about suicide.

Phyllis Hyman's Final Album

It is virtually impossible to listen to "I Refuse to Be Lonely" released five months after Phyllis Hyman's suicide, "without realizing that many of these songs more than faintly hint at the tragedy that was brewing" according to Jose F. Promis. "All of this is only heightened by the last song, prophetically titled 'Give Me One Good Reason to Stay,' where Hyman sings 'It's true I'm leaving/My bags are at the door.'"[1]

"Never has an artist produced an entire album that reflects so hauntingly on her life and hints so broadly of her imminent demise as does Phyllis Hyman's "I Refuse To Be Lonely," wrote Jonathan Takiff in the Chicago Tribune. "Begun at the end of 1993 and completed just days before her death by suicide on June 30, 1995, this goose-bump evoking, emotional roller coaster of a soul-pop ballad album comes off thematically as a life and death struggle, and artistically as one heck of a swan song."[2]

"She was passionate about not singing anything superficial," said song collaborator Gordon Chambers. "In retrospect, a lot of what we wrote were her parting words. It's almost chilling to hear `Why Not Me?' because it really is her testimony."[3]

Creatively as well as emotionally, "I Refuse To Be Lonely" serves as an ultimate career capper writes Takiff. "Goaded by producers Nick Martinelli and Kenny Gamble, the set offers this jazz-inflected singer's best-ever vocal performances and strongest creative input, including five songwriting credits and unbilled assists on a lot of others."[4]

"Phyllis would sit down with the songwriters and tell them what she was thinking, and they'd translate the thoughts into song lyrics.So the entire album reflected her point of view," says Gracia. "Phyllis was an advocate of suicide," Gracia added. "I was not surprised or shocked that she took her life. It was her philosophy that she was in charge of her body because it was hers, and in charge of her life because it was hers. Her position was, if she didn't like the pain, didn't like her life, she had the right to get out of the pain."[5]

Hyman began working on the album during an emotionally difficult period writes Esther Iverem in the Washington Post. In May 1993, within a period of 28 days, her mother, Louise Hyman, her grandmother and a close friend all died. "She was crying a lot," says Nick Martinelli, the Los Angeles-based producer who helped write the single "I Refuse to Be Lonely" and produced four other cuts on the album. "Her mother had just died, and we wrote about what she was feeling at the time. She really felt alone.[6]

Brimming with painful lyrics, the album attests to Hyman's intense emotional and, ultimately, life-and-death struggle writes Iverem. "Hyman claws back from the brink, back from the place where she fought depression, loneliness, alcoholism, obesity and a consuming anger at lesser voices enjoying more commercial success. She ultimately returned there in June, overdosing on sleeping pills six days before her 46th birthday."[7]

"Phyllis was uncovering the riddles of stuff in her life," says Glenda Gracia, Hyman's friend and manager for 14 years. "She was in touch with her emotions. Sometimes when you start that process, the demons that you confront may have more for you than you might have thought you would find.[8]

"Phyllis loved drama" says Gracia. ""Let's face it, she was on her way to a show the night she died. She had a performance to do at the Apollo Theater. I won't say she didn't intend to make a statement. She absolutely felt this record was her best. Clearly her timing was dramatic."[9]

Rare for a celebrity, Hyman made public declarations of her loneliness and desire for a love in her life writes Iverem. "A 6-foot-1 beauty, she had difficulty finding men who had the right combination of stature, income, intellect and personality. Friends say she felt she intimidated and overpowered men. She also didn't want married men or want to share a man with other girlfriends."[10]



About the Author

Hugh and Dr. S. J. Pickens
Dr. Pickens and Hugh Pickens celebrated 33 years of marriage before Dr. Pickens passed away in 2017.
Pickens Museum opens on NOC Tonkawa Campus. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Cheryl Evans, NOC President, Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum, and Sheri Snyder, NOC Vice President for Development and Community Relations. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College)

Hugh Pickens (Po-Hi '67) is a physicist who has explored for oil in the Amazon jungle, commissioned microwave communications systems across the empty quarter of Saudi Arabia, and built satellite control stations for Goddard Space Flight Center in Australia, Antarctica, Guam, and other locations around the world. Retired in 1999, Pickens and his wife of 33 years moved from Baltimore back to his hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma in 2005 where he cultivates his square foot garden, mows seven acres of lawn, writes about local history, photographs events at the Poncan Theatre, produces the annual Oklahoma Pride series with his wife at Ponca Playhouse, and recently sponsored the first formal dinner in the Marland Mansion in 75 years. Pickens is founder and Executive Director of Pickens Art Museum with locations at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, City Central in Ponca City, and Pickens Gallery at Woolaroc. Pickens can be contacted at hughpickens@gmail.com. Pickens is a covid survivor and a stroke survivor.

Personal Statement

Most days you will find me sitting in my easy chair with an HP laptop or a book in front of me. I enjoy intellectual pursuits: studying, writing, reading, researching, analyzing, and predicting. During my off time I like riding the backroads of Oklahoma in my hot rod, working out, watching old movies on TCM, playing games like chess or dominoes, participating in community theatre, and, my secret pleasure, reading trashy detective novels by John D. MacDonald. I enjoy theater and concerts and I go to NYC several times a year to see Broadway shows and visit galleries and museums.

Pickens' Publishing

In 1996, Pickens edited and published ''My Life In Review: Have I Been Lucky of What?'', the memoirs of Jack Crandall, professor of history at SUNY Brockport. Since 2001 Pickens has edited and published “Peace Corps Online,” serving over one million monthly pageviews. Pickens' other writing includes contributing over 2,000 stories to “Slashdot: News for Nerds,” and articles for Wikipedia, and “Ponca City, We Love You”. Pickens has written the following articles available on his wiki at Research and Ideas.

History and Biography

I enjoy doing in-depth research on one person and writing a detailed biography of lesser known events or figures. I like to find someone, an artist, a politician, a former Peace Corps Director, or an Oklahoman, that I like and am interested in learning more about them and writing their biography from scratch. I started and filled out dozens of biographies when I wrote for Wikipedia back in the stone age in the early 2000's when they were getting started. But Wikipedia became too bureaucratic and political for me so now I research and write biographies on my own mediawiki platform. (I only make anonymous edits to Wikipedia now usually on the discussion pages.)

Science and Technology

I graduated with a degree in physics from SUNY Brockport in 1970 and have worked in science and technology my entire career. I have held such jobs as Geophysical Observer on a geological survey crew in the amazon jungle, running a portable hydrocarbon detection laboratory on an oil rig, systems engineer for the microwave communications system and supervisory control system on the 800-mile long Trans-Andean Pipeline, independent contractor to Collins Radio in 1979 installing, commissioning, and testing microwave repeater stations all over Saudi Arabia, military advisor to the Royal Saudi Navy on naval communications, navigation, and fire control systems (1980 - 84), project engineer, then project manager for Bendix Fields Engineering (later becoming AlliedSignal Technical Services, then Honeywell Technical Services) from 1984 until my retirement in 1999.

Business and Investing

I am a speculator and enjoy designing and executing trading strategies that exploit market inefficiencies through my assessment and evaluation of information asymmetries, market psychology, and human emotion. Over the years I have put together several open-source histories of companies I am interested in including micro-caps that I have invested in.

Ponca City, Oklahoma

I was born and grew up in Ponca City, Oklahoma, a town of about 25,000 somewhat isolated in North Central Oklahoma (a two hour drive to the nearest metropolitan areas in Tulsa, OKC, and Wichita.). After I left Ponca City to go to college, I worked overseas and on the East Coast for 30 years. But my wife and I came back to Ponca after our retirement in 1999.

Ponca City is an interesting amalgam of historical developments including being being founded and created from scratch during and after the Cherokee Strip Land Run in 1893, becoming an oil boom town in the 1920's, home of the "Palace on the Prairie" built by oil magnate E.W. Marland, home to Conoco's R&D facility employing hundreds of Phd.'s in the 1950's, 60's and 70's giving Ponca a character of a university town, and finally the continual influence of Native American tribes on our history especially the Ponca tribe and Osage Nation. Some interesting articles I have researched and written about Ponca City include:

Pickens Museum

Pickens Museum is a distributed museum that is active in three location: Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, City Central in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and at Woolaroc Museum near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The museum has plans to build a 15,000 ft2 art museum on highway 60 West of Ponca City, Oklahoma. in the next few years.


Peace Corps Writing

I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru from 1970 - 73 working with the Peruvian Ministry of Education teaching high school science teachers how to build lab equipment out of simple, cheap materials. In 2000 I started "Peace Corps Online" to document the work volunteers are doing around the world both during and after the Peace Corps Service. I ran the web site for ten years and posted about 10,000 stories. Even though the site is no longer active, I still get over 50,000 monthly pageviews.


Phillips 66

Conoco and Phillips 66 announced on November 18, 2001 that their boards of directors had unanimously approved a definitive agreement for a "merger of equals". The merged company, ConocoPhillips, became the third-largest integrated U.S. energy company based on market capitalization and oil and gas reserves and production. On November 11, 2011 ConocoPhillips announced that Phillips 66 would be the name of a new independent oil and gasoline refining and marketing firm, created as ConocoPhillips split into two companies. ConocoPhillips kept the current name of the company and concentrated on oil exploration and production side while Phillips 66 included refining, marketing, midstream, and chemical portions of the company. Photo: Hugh Pickens all rights reserved.

For nearly 100 years oil refining has provided the bedrock of Ponca City's local economy and shaped the character of our community. Today the Ponca City Refinery is the best run and most profitable of Phillips 66's fifteen worldwide refineries. The purpose of this collection of reports is to provide a comprehensive overview of Phillips 66's business that documents and explains the company's business strategy and execution of that strategy.

Safety, Environment, Legal


Strategic and Financial

Business Segments

Stock Market


Refining Business Segment

Increasing Profitability in Refining Business Segment

Detailed Look at Ponca City Refinery

Other Phillips Refineries

Other Locations