Lysa Dawn Robinson liked to bang on things around the house when she was a kid. So her parents bought her a drum set when she was 2.
And that was that.
Ms. Robinson went on to become a high school percussionist, rehearsing with other teenagers in a jazz hall in the basement of the old Stenton Diner. It was there that a famous saxophonist saw something special.
“She was mentored by Grover Washington Jr. and by Gamble and Huff,” said sister Pamela Chambers, referring to the “Philadelphia Sound” producers who along with Washington coached the teenage jazz artists who rehearsed at the diner.
Ms. Robinson, professionally known as Leesa Dawn Robinson, was the drummer for the singer Billy Paul. She also had the nickname “Lady Rhythm.” In the 1970s and ’80s, she had formed her own band, Totally Unique.
Ms. Robinson, 55, of Philadelphia, died Thursday, April 2, at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood from complications of the coronavirus, said her sister, a medical professional in Dallas.
Ms. Robinson also performed and recorded with the Philadelphia jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler.
“We had the music gene in our family,” Chambers said. Their father, Mitchel E. Robinson, was a guitarist for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes before forming his own gospel group.
Ms. Robinson was a native of Philadelphia, the middle of three daughters born to Mitchel Robinson and Sunee Shirley Robinson. The family lived in West Oak Lane for years before moving to West Philadelphia, where Ms. Robinson graduated from Overbrook High School.
In addition to her sister and mother, Ms. Robinson is survived by sister Michele Robinson Brooker and several nieces, a nephew, and other family members
A private service was held Thursday, April 9.