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Lenny Williams

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  • Born: Little Rock, AR
  • Years Active: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music GuideWikipedia

All Music Guide:

Although Lenny Williams has had a long solo career, he is still best-known for his three years as the lead singer of Tower of Power, one of the top funk/soul bands of the '70s. But Williams was pursuing a solo career before joining Tower of Power, and he resumed his solo career after leaving that famous Oakland outfit in 1975. Born in Little Rock, AR, on February 6, 1945, Williams was only a child when he started singing in church (the place where so many great R&B singers got their start). Williams, who moved to Oakland, CA, when he was 14, planned to become a Christian minister but ended up changing his mind and decided to pursue a career as a secular R&B singer. In 1969, Williams signed with Fantasy and recorded his first single, "Lisa's Gone," a soul ballad that was far from a big hit, but did receive some airplay in the Bay Area. After providing a second single for Fantasy, Williams was signed to Atlantic by Jerry Wexler and recorded a version of the Thom Bell/Linda Creed gem "People Make the World Go Round." Williams' version might have been a hit -- had it not been for the Stylistics, that is. Unfortunately for Williams, the Stylistics' famous version of "People Make the World Go Round" came out as a single and soared to the top of the charts before Atlantic had a chance to release Williams' version. (Michael Jackson also recorded the tune in the early '70s, although not with the same set of lyrics that the Stylistics embraced). But that setback was hardly the end of Williams' career; in 1972, he was hired as the new lead singer of Tower of Power. Because the band's previous lead singer, Rick Stevens (best-known for his soaring performance on the hit ballad "You're Still a Young Man") had recently been convicted of murder, a replacement was needed, and Williams was definitely the man for the job.

Williams' three years with Tower of Power established him as a big name in soul and funk and he became famous for his lead vocals on major hits like "What Is Hip?," "Don't Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream)," "This Time It's Real," and the ballad "So Very Hard to Go." But while Tower of Power was a big break for Williams, he only stuck around for three years; in 1975, the Bay Area resident left the band and became a full-time solo artist. His first few solo albums (recorded for Motown) didn't do much, but his solo career took off in a big way when he recorded Choosing You for ABC. That 1977 release (which contains the major hit "Shoo Doo Fu Fu Ooh!") almost went gold in the U.S. (meaning that it sold close to 500,000 units). Williams next solo effort, Spark of Love (also on ABC), became his first gold solo album and boasted the hit ballad "Cause I Love You." After providing a few albums for MCA, Williams recorded for the independent Rocshire label in 1983 and 1984; when that company folded, he was deprived of a 50,000 dollar advance he said he was owed. Disgusted with music industry, Williams considered giving up singing and devoted a lot of his time to real estate investments. But in 1986, Williams ended up signing with Knobhill, a short-lived indie that was distributed by Fantasy. Williams' 1986 LP, New Episode, wasn't a blockbuster, although the single "Ten Ways of Loving You" became a minor hit and reached number 67 on Billboard's R&B singles chart. But while Williams wasn't as big in the '80s and '90s as he was in the '70s, he still had a loyal following. In 1994, he recorded Chill for Bellmark; Williams' next album, Love Therapy, came out on Volt/Fantasy in 2000.


For the Canadian football player, see Lenny Williams (Canadian football).

Leonard Charles "Lenny" Williams (born February 16, 1945) is an American singer known for his work in the R&B and soul music genres. During the 1970s, he was the lead vocalist for Tower of Power. As a soloist, he made several hit recordings, including 1977's "Choosing You" and 1978's "Cause I Love You".

^ Williams, Lenny. "Lennywilliams.com". Retrieved 15 April 2011. 

Early life and career[edit]

Williams was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and moved to Oakland, California at a young age. Learning to play the trumpet in elementary school fueled his interest in music; his skills as a vocalist were first nurtured by singing in gospel choirs and groups around the Bay Area. He worked with several notable artists, such as Sly Stone, Andraé Crouch, Billy Preston and members of the Hawkins family, Edwin, Walter and Tramaine.

Professional recordings[edit]

After winning several local talent contests, Williams signed his first recording contract with Fantasy Records. He cut two singles for the label, including "Lisa’s Gone" and "Feelin Blue", written by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival. In 1972, Williams joined the emerging funk band Tower of Power. A string of hits followed, including "So Very Hard To Go", "What Is Hip", "Don't Change Horses (In The Middle Of The Stream)" and "Willing To Learn". During his two years with the group, Williams participated in three albums: Back To Oakland, Urban Renewal and the gold LP Tower Of Power. Williams and Tower of Power toured throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

Solo works[edit]

While still with Tower of Power, he recorded his first solo album Pray For The Lion for Warner Bros. Records in 1974. At the end of 1975, Williams left the band and returned to his solo projects. Initially signing with Motown Records in 1975, he later moved to ABC Records in 1977 (which was then purchased by MCA Records in 1979). With producer Frank Wilson at the helm and songwriters such as Judy Wieder, Clay Drayton, Terry McFadden, and John Footman, over the next four years, he scored ten chart hits, including "Shoo Doo FuFu Ooh", "Choosing You", "You Got Me Running", "Love Hurt Me Love Healed Me", "Here's To The Lady," and "Midnight Girl". Williams recorded four more albums from 1977 to 1980: Choosing You, his first gold LP; Spark Of Love (contains the hits "You Got Me Running", and "Cause I Love You"); Love Current; "Taking Chances" and Let’s Do It Today.

After leaving MCA, Williams recorded for the independent record labels, Rockshire and Knobhill. In 1986, he was invited to sing vocals on "Don't Make Me Wait For Love" a track from Duotones, a multi-platinum recording by Kenny G. The song became a Top 20 Billboard Hot 100 and R&B hit the following year.

His 1978 hit song "Cause I Love You" was sampled by Havoc of Mobb Deep for the track "Nothing Like Home", and by Kanye West for the songs "Overnight Celebrity" by Twista and "I Got A Love" by Jin. The track was sampled a fourth time in 2007 by Scarface for his single "Girl You Know" featuring Trey Songz & Young Jeezy sampled "Let's Talk It Over" for his single "I Do" featuring Jay-Z and Andre 3000. His song "Half Past Love" was also sampled by The Coup for their 2006 single "My Favorite Mutiny" featuring Black Thought of The Roots and Talib Kweli of Black Star.

Since that time, Williams has continued his solo career, touring the US, Europe and South Africa, and has also expanded his career to include acting, starring in several stage plays, including Love On Lay Away starring Deborah Cox, Mel Jackson and Martha Wash, What Men Don't Tell starring Kenny Latimore, Shante Moore, and Dottie Peoples, and When A Woman's Fed Up. He is also one of the featured artists on Urbanland Music's DVD "The Big Show", recorded at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts, USA on November 29, 2002.

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