Mon. Oct. 25, 2021

Deniece Williams – Free (Columbia)

Classics: Deniece Williams – Free (Columbia)

‘Silly’, ‘It’s Gonna Take A Miracle’, ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’. If not ‘I’ve Got The Next Dance’… As many classics which contributed putting Deniece Williams to the forefront starting from the mid-70’s. Not to mention her memorable duets with Johnny Mathis.

From her ‘This Is Niecy’ album which marked her debut back in 1976, the vibrant jazzy cool ‘Free’ stands as the lady’s signature song. With stellar production work by the likes of Maurice White of the Earth, Wind & Fire fame. But also Charles Stepney (Rotary Connection, Minnie Riperton) who tragically died of a heart attack by the time it got released.
Admittedly one of Kenny Dope‘s all time favorites. No wonder why…

‘Free’ eventually resurfaced 18 years after. This time with Bay Area songstress Chanté Moore brilliantly takin’ the centerstage. You don’t want to miss this neither…

With thanks to‘s Michael Lewis for pointing out Will Downing‘s version of it, from his 1988 eponymous album…

What’s the value of your vinyl record?

Gary, IN native Deniece Williams saw the day in a strict religious family. Therefore, no wonder why she would get into singing via Gospel at church. During her High School days, she eventually got a part time job at a record store. Singin’ along with the records most likely pushed the shop’s manager to suggest her for a recording deal with his friends at the Toddlin’ Town label.

Williams delivered her debut single – ‘Love Is Tears’ – as Deniece Chandler (her real ID) back in 1968 on Lock Records. Meanwhile Toddlin’ Town re-released it 2 years after. By that time, she had enrolled at Baltimore’s Morgan State College to become a nursing major, even though she kept on singing in local nightclubs.
Returning to Indiana to keep on studying, she eventually married and had two sons. By 1971, Stevie Wonder who’d heard her debut-single invited her to Detroit, MI to audition for his group (Wonderlove). She passed and joined full-time the year after. Right on time to perform when Wonder opened for The Rolling Stones that same year.

When Stevie Wonder moved with the Motown Organization to Los Angeles, CA, she and her family followed. Deniece Williams toured as a backing singer for Roberta Flack. Continuing her services with Wonderlove, she parcicipated to the recording of Wonder‘s ‘Fullfillingness First Finale’ album along with Minnie Riperton. Sending demos of her own songs to various companies brought her to the attention of Maurice White who signed her to his Kalimba Productions company in 1976.

White took her to CBS Records and produced her debut-album – ‘This Is Niecy’ – that same year. Eventually sharing the duties with Charles Stepney on ‘Free’ which got her to top the charts. The label went gold and Williams toured extensively with Earth, Wind & Fire from then. He also produced her follow up – ‘Songbird’ – in 1977. And in 1978, she recorded duets with Johnny Mathis. Meanwhile she delivered her third album – ‘When Love Comes Calling’ the year after. Eventually working with producer David Foster on the boiling Discoish ‘I’ve Got The Next Dance’.

Deniece Williams briefly collaborated with Michael Zager in 1980 on ‘Time Heals Every Wound’. She then teamed up with Thom Bell who produced her two following albums. ‘My Melody’ which includes the memorable ‘Silly’ in 1981, followed by ‘Niecy’ in 1982. George Duke producing her next two albums, ‘I’m So Proud’ in 1984 and ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’ speakin’ of which its title track was to become another classic for her.

Williams has recorded a total of 17 albums to date. With her latest to date – ‘Love Niecy Style’ – featuring luminaries such as Stevie Wonder and Philip Bailey. Not to mention George Duke and Everette Harp.

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