Services set for entertainer Vesta Williams
Found dead in an El Segundo hotel
Funeral services for R & B singer Mary Vesta Williams, best known for her singles “Congratulations” and “Don’t Blow a Good Thing,” will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. Williams was found dead on Sept. 22 in an El Segundo hotel. She was 53.
El Segundo police said no criminal activity was suspected, but there were rumors of a drug overdose. The L.A. County Coroner’s office is awaiting toxicology results, which can take up to six weeks to obtain.
The drug overdose rumors may stem from a benefit show the Ohio-born singer did about two weeks ago at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles, where she told the audience, she had beaten two of her three addictions.
“But she didn’t say what they were,” added Jeffery Suttles, Williams’ longtime drummer, who played the show with her.
“She had an infectious laugh, and because she was a singer her laughter projected,” said Suttles. “Vesta was one of those people who was so talented in so many ways that it was sometimes hard to figure out where to start. She was a jack of all trades, and she mastered them.”
Suttles said he first met Williams when he was working as a drum tech and she was one of the singers accompanying the Jazz Crusaders on their “Street Life” tours.
The two became fast friends, and the singer invited Suttles to perform on her first album, “Vesta,” released in 1986. This disc contained the single, “Something About You.”
That freshman release was followed by “Vesta 4 U” in 1988, “Special” in 1991, “Relationships” on A & M Records in 1993, “Relationships” on Polygram Records in 1998 and “Distant Lover” in 2007.
Her single, “Congratulations,” which appeared on her second album, was all over the airwaves in 1989. It was also on her best-selling album, which also contained the hits “Sweet, Sweet Love,” and “4 U.” Although she never achieved a chart topper, Williams scored six Top 10 hits on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s.
But the daughter of an Ohio DJ, who was bitten by the music bug in her high school years—she and her sisters appeared on the “Jack and Jill” show as The Williams sisters and she sang in a girl group Wild Honey in Ohio with band mate Freddi Poole—could never quite push through to the next level of sustainable stardom.
Battles with her weight did not help the cause, which she talked about in a number of interviews. She ballooned up to size 26 on a 5-foot-3-inch frame before losing 100 pounds and dropping down to a size 6.
In addition to her powerful vocals, Williams was an actress who played as a saloon singer in Mario Van Peebles movie “Posse” in 1993. She also had a recurring role on the television sitcom “Sister, Sister” as best friend Monica to Jackee Harry.
Most recently Williams was preparing to perform at the 21st annual “DIVAS Simply Singing” scheduled in Los Angeles for October. She is also slated to be the subject of a TVOne “Unsung” episode, and Suttles says the cameras were rolling during the recent L.A. benefit performance. TVOne confirmed that the project is in its early production stages and should air some time at the end of 2011 or early next year.
The drummer said Williams had also just completed a seventh album.
Charles Karle Bouley, who met Williams in 1988 and worked with her as a publicist, wrote in his Huffington Post obituary, “she was potential unrealized. Vesta was happy but not satisfied. She wanted more. She wanted more hit records, more tours, more albums. She wasn’t done.”
Mario Van Peebles is working to connect the dots. The second-generation filmmaker this weekend participated in a screening in conjunction with Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), of one of his newest films—“Fair Game?”—and says it is just the latest vehicle he has created to get out a message he feels is critical for young people to hear, particularly African American males.
“Fair Game?” looks at the plight of Black males in America, as told by . . . Black men in America.
As you begin to watch Mario Van Peebles’ new movie, “We the Party,” which opens in limited release Friday, your first thought is that it is the quintessential schoolboy movie with all the requisite pranks—mirrors on the shoes to look under girl’s dresses, finding a hot date for the prom, a preoccupation with getting sex, and learning the intricacies of avoiding the school bully without being horribly embarrassed.
Hundreds of mourners paid their final respects to singer-actress Vesta Williams at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. Williams was found dead on Sept. 22 in an El Segundo hotel.
Among mouners were actresses Jackee Harry, Anna Maria Horsford, Loretta Devine and Sheryl Lee Ralph, and members of the musical group Fourplay.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Four teams made up of youth from 13 middle and high schools in South Los Angeles will compete Friday in an academic showdown in the Thinkfinity Bowl Championship.