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Mary Vesta Williams (December 1, 1957 – September 22, 2011[2]) was an American singer-songwriter, who performed across genres such as pop, jazz, adult contemporary and R&B. Originally credited as Vesta Williams, she was simply known as Vesta beginning in the 1990s.[3] She was known for her four–octave vocal range.[4][5] She once sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" for the Los Angeles Lakers game opener using all four of those octaves. Although Williams never had any albums certified gold nor any Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, she scored six Top 10 hits on the United States Billboard R&B chart from the mid–1980s to the early–1990s which included "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" (1986), "Sweet Sweet Love" (1988), "Special" (1993), and her 1989 R&B hit and signature song,[6] "Congratulations".[7]

Vesta Williams
Vesta Williams.jpg
Background information
Birth nameMary Vesta Williams[1]
Born(1957-12-01)December 1, 1957
Coshocton, Ohio, U.S.[1]
DiedSeptember 22, 2011(2011-09-22) (aged 53)
El Segundo, California, U.S.[1]
  • Singer–songwriter
  • actress
Years active1985–2011
Associated acts



Born in Coshocton, Ohio, United States,[1][3] Williams' father was a disc jockey. Her family moved from Ohio to Los Angeles in the 1960s. While there, Williams and her three sisters, Margaret, Marte and Marlena, appeared on the television show Jack and Jill as "The Williams Sisters".[8] Later, she returned to Ohio but decided to go back to Los Angeles in order to launch a solo career.[3] Former Fifth Dimension member Ron Townson put Williams in his band Wild Honey.[8] Following that stint, Williams found work as a backup singer, working with artists such as Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Sting, Stephanie Mills, Anita Baker and Gordon Lightfoot. Williams sang on the original version of Joe Sample's "The Survivor",[8] and met producer David Crawford while working with his group Klique. After doing session work, she landed a recording contract with A&M Records and her debut album, Vesta, was released in 1986.[8] The album featured her first Top 10 R&B hit "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", which became her only UK hit and performed modestly on the US R&B charts.[3]

Her 1988 release, Vesta 4 U, produced the Top 10 R&B hits "Sweet Sweet Love", "4 U", and "Congratulations", with the latter peaking at #55 on the Hot 100 chart and #5 on the R&B chart.[9] "Congratulations" was Vesta's only single to enter the Hot 100 chart. The album was also her most successful,[citation needed] and her only album to appear on the US Billboard 200, peaking at #131. There were persistent rumors that the song was inspired by the dissolution of her long-time relationship with Bruce Willis and that Demi Moore was directly responsible for ending it. In 1991, Williams released her third album entitled Special, with the title track as a single. "Special" became her highest charting song on the R&B chart at #2, but sales of the album were less than that of Vesta 4 U. Her next album, 1993's Everything-N-More, produced only a minor R&B hit, "Always".[10]

In 1989, Polygram Records purchased A&M Records. Williams' 1998 album Relationships was released under the Polygram name, and it became a modest seller, appearing on the R&B charts. Following the release of Relationships, A&M/Polygram did not renew her contract. Williams continued to work as a session singer, landing spots on albums by such artists as Phil Perry, Howard Hewett, and George Duke. Her voice could be heard by radio listeners in jingles for advertisers that included McDonald's, Nike, Baskin-Robbins, Diet Coke, Revlon and Exxon.[11] That same year, she performed the opening theme to the ABC miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place.[12]

Williams portrayed a saloon singer in the 1993 film Posse, directed by Mario Van Peebles.[13] During this time period she had a hit with the SWV song, "Rain", recorded alongside smooth jazz musician Norman Brown.[citation needed] Williams had a recurring role as "Monica", Jackée Harry's best friend, in the television series Sister, Sister in the 1998-99 season. Her singing voice is featured in the theme song of UPN's Malcolm and Eddie.[14]

In 2000, Polygram released a compilation album, featuring songs from Williams and former A&M artist CeCe Peniston. In 2007, Williams released an album of R&B songs on Shanachie Records entitled Distant Lover. Produced by Chris "Big Dog" Davis, Distant Lover was a cover album featuring songs originally recorded by Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Sade, and Deniece Williams. Her last recording was the song "Dedicated," released on 7 December 2010 on Stimuli Music.[15]

By 2002, Williams had become a radio personality, and was co-hosting a morning show on KRNB in Dallas/Fort Worth.[16] In recent years, Williams had lost 100 pounds, going from size 26 to size 6.[17] It was at this time that Williams became an advocate for the prevention of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.[18]

Her final performance occurred on September 17, 2011 in Portsmouth, Virginia at the Autumn Jazz Explosion, just five days before her death.[14]

She was scheduled to perform at the 21st annual "DIVAS Simply Singing!" in Los Angeles on October 22, 2011. Shanice performed "Congratulations" during the show as a tribute to Williams. There was also a tribute to the late singer Teena Marie.[19] Williams was taping an episode of TV One's Unsung at the time of her death. It aired January 2, 2012.[20]


On September 22, 2011, Williams was found dead in a hotel room in El Segundo, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.[1][21] According to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, she was found dead at 6:15 p.m. (PDT), A spokesperson for the coroner's office stated that the autopsy did not say the cause of death. In late December 2011, the family released this statement through singer/producer Norwood Young, reporting her official cause of death: "Following three months of intensive coroner's autopsy and toxicology research, it has been definitively determined that the cause of death for our beloved Vesta was 'natural death' from 'hypertensive heart disease,'" adding: "An enlarged heart can remain undetected for many years."[22][23][24]

Vesta Williams was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) on October 4, 2011 following a memorial service at West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, California.[25] Attendees included Wanda Dee, singer Peggi Blu, Freda Payne, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, Kellita Smith, Norwood Young, Michael Collier, Miki Howard, Karel Bouley, Kiki Shepard, Jackée Harry, Luenell, and renowned blues singer Linda Hopkins. A private reception was held following the interment. [26]

She is survived by her mother, daughter, three sisters, a brother, and three grandchildren.[27]


Studio albumsEdit

Year Title Peak chart positions Record Label

1986 Vesta 43 67 A&M
1988 Vesta 4 U 131 26
1991 Special 15
1993 Everything-N-More 65
1998 Relationships 55 i.e. music
2007 Distant Lover Shanachie
2013 Seven Bronx Bridge
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Compilation albumsEdit


Year Title Peak chart positions


1986 "Once Bitten Twice Shy" 9 45 21 20 42 14
1987 "Something About You" 46 21
"Don't Blow a Good Thing" 17 5 89
"Suddenly It's Magic" 88
"You Make Me Want To (Love Again)" 90
1988 "Sweet, Sweet Love" 4
1989 "4 U" 9
"Congratulations" 55 5
"How You Feel" 70
1990 "I'll Be Good to You" (with Najee) 9
1991 "Special" 2
"Do Ya" 43
1993 "Always" 44
1998 "You Still Do It"
"Somebody for Me"
2010 "Dedicated"
2013 "Better Days"
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Music videosEdit

  • Once Bitten Twice Shy
  • Something About You
  • Don't Blow a Good Thing
  • Sweet Sweet Love
  • 4 U
  • Congratulations
  • How You Feel
  • Special
  • Do Ya
  • Always
  • Somebody for Me
  • Dedicated


  1. ^ a b c d e "R&B Singer Vesta Williams Found Dead at 53". ABC News. Associated Press. 2011-09-23.
  2. ^ "Audio Exclusive: Norwood Young Details Vesta's Final Days". EURweb. 2011-09-23. Archived from the original on 2013-06-21. Retrieved 2012-03-29. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d "Biography by Ron Wynn". Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  4. ^ "Stacia L. Brown: Vesta Williams 'Unsung': An Uplifting, Heartbreaking Look At An R&B Dynamo". 2012-01-02. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  5. ^ Sep 23, 2011 (2011-09-23). "Breaking News: R&B Singer Vesta Williams Found Dead In L.A. Hotel Room | Praise 1300". Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  6. ^ "Funeral arrangements for Vesta Williams set | SoulTracks - Soul Music Biographies, News and Reviews". SoulTracks. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  7. ^ "Vesta Williams, R&B Singer and Actress, Dies at 53". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2011-09-24.
  8. ^ a b c d Wynn, Ron. "Vesta Williams". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 603.
  10. ^ "VESTA WILLIAMS DIES, IN WHAT 'COULD BE A DRUG OVERDOSE'". Archived from the original on 2011-11-16.
  11. ^ Burton, Nsenga (2011-09-23). "R&B Singer Vesta Williams Found Dead". Archived from the original on 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-03-29. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Posse (1993)". Box Office Mojo. May 14, 1993. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
  14. ^ a b Johnson, Billy (2011-09-23). "Vesta Williams' Death Confirmed By Los Angeles Coroner | Hip-hop Media training - Archives - Yahoo! Music". Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  15. ^ "iTunes - Music - Dedicated by Vesta Williams". 2010-12-07. Archived from the original on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2012-03-29. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  16. ^ "Welcome to Vesta". Archived from the original on 2011-12-11. Retrieved 2012-03-29. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  17. ^ "The new & improved Vesta: from size 26 to size 6". Ebony. 1996.
  18. ^ "Vesta Williams, R&B Singer and Actress, Dies at 53". The New York Times. September 24, 2011.
  19. ^ "R&B singer Vesta Williams found dead at 53 - MSN Music News". Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  20. ^ "R&B singer Vesta Williams found dead at 53 - MSN Music News". Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  21. ^ "Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis". Washington Post. 2013-09-12. Archived from the original on 2014-07-16. Retrieved 2014-07-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  22. ^ "The Family of R&B Singer Vesta Williams Releases Official Statement on Final Cause of Her Death". Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  23. ^ Bryson, Derrick (2011-12-30). "Vesta Williams' Autopsy Report". Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  24. ^ Archived September 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Listen now". Black Press Radio. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  26. ^ "Vesta Williams Funeral". Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  27. ^ "Hundreds Turn Out For Homegoing Celebration For Singer Vesta Williams! | Praise 103.9". 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  28. ^ a b c d e "US Charts > Vesta William". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-09-06. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  29. ^ a b "NLD Charts > Vesta Williams". MegaCharts. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
  30. ^ "IRE Charts Search > Vesta Williams". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
  31. ^ "NZ Charts > Vesta Williams". Official New Zealand Music Chart. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
  32. ^ "UK Charts > Vesta Williams". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2016-09-06.

External linksEdit