“As an entertainer, performing artist and singer – “V” (Vesta Williams) was the total package.” – Manager, Iris Perkins”
What happened to Vesta Williams?
On Thursday, September 22, 2011, singer/songwriter Vesta Williams (53) was found dead in her El Segundo, California hotel room. Best known for her 1988 classic “Congratulations” (#1 RB in Radio Records #5 Billboard), Williams was staying in the hotel as she prepared to move into a new home that weekend.
In a statement prepared by Williams’ family, they express:
“After many years of sharing her God-given gifts and talents with the world, we have lost our beloved daughter, sister and mother, Vesta. Due to the uncertainty of her passing, we are awaiting toxicology and autopsy results to shed light on what may have caused her death.
We take extreme comfort in the cherished times that we shared with Vesta over the years and the knowledge that her life brought joy and happiness to so many people around the world. Our family requests that the media please respect our privacy during this difficult time. Although she is gone, her music lives on. Vesta will never be forgotten.”
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Mary Vesta Williams was born on December 1, 1957, in Coshocton, Ohio, she was the firstborn child to Hugh Williams and his wife Joan. In the mid 60’s Mr. Williams a disc Radio DJey/ broadcaster went on to become the first African American to anchor TV news in Los Angeles.
In the 70s, Vesta put her powerful 4-octave vocal range to work first as a member of the show group Wild Honey led by Ron Townson of The 5th Dimension followed by tours with Bobby Womack, the Commodores, and Chaka Khan and session singing that stretched from Anita Baker to Gordon Lightfoot, Julio Iglesias, and Sting.
A chance meeting with executive John McClain evolved into Vesta signing with AM Records. Williams bowed in 1986 with the album Vesta and single “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.”
Her second album, Vesta 4 U (1988) yielded her signature, “Congratulations,” co-penned by Vesta, Gary Prim, and Tena Clark. Additionally, it was Vesta’s concerts that showcased her comedic instincts, celebrity impressions, and defiantly flirty nature for a “big girl that won over fans. More hits followed such as “Sweet, Sweet Love,” “Special,” (#2 R&B in Billboard) and “Always,” but Vesta‘s gifts were taking her places.
One was the big screen where she played saloon singer “Vera” in the 1993 western “Posse.” On the television sitcom “Sister Sister,” she played “Monica.”
Her voice enlivened commercial jingles such as Diet Coke, Baskin-Robbins, and Nike and the most memorably with jazz vocal icon Al Jarreau singing “The Big Mac Scat” for McDonald’s. Vesta also took a six-figure job as a member of a radio morning show team at KRNB-FM 105.7 in Dallas..
A slim, trim and positive Vesta returned in 1998 on guitarist Lee Ritenour’s i.e. music imprint with the concept album Relationships. Vesta co-composed 10 of the 11 songs plus sang “You and I” by one of her greatest musical influences, Stevie Wonder. In smooth jazz, Vesta toured with Fourplay and graced recordings with Will Downing, Najee, and Norman Brown.. In straight-ahead jazz, Vesta recorded with Christian McBride.
Inspirational at heart, Vesta flexed her gospel roots in concert with the great Bobby Jones and also recorded the touching “Bless This Child” for the Christmas CD, Mother Child reuniting her with Tena Clark.
Vesta‘s last CD was 2007’s Distant Lover for Shanachie singing soul classics. She also recorded an as-yet-unreleased CD for Stimuli titled Seven. In between, Vesta remained on the road. Iris Perkins, Vesta‘s friend and longtime manager reminisces, “Even without a record deal, we were able to keep Vesta‘s concert calendar booked solid. “˜V’ was the total package.”
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TV One’s “Unsung” is devoting an episode to Vesta, she was in the midst of completing her interviews at the time of her sudden death, the show will air in the fall.
Gifted, funny, sexy, generous, ever-so-real and oh-so-underrated, Vesta will be deeply missed.
Vesta Williams is survived by her daughter – Tandia White, her mother – Joan W. Tate, her sisters – Margaret Wilson, MartaÃ© Collins and Marlena Robinson, and her grandchildren – Taya McNeil, Alexia McNeil, and Brendon White.