OF COURSE you can glean by now that I probably first heard Vesta Williams on New York City’s famous WBLS FM 107.5, and you are correct. “Vesta” as we first came to know her, could always hit those “Chaka Khan notes” right-down to the “Ooo!”, and indeed, I thought she was Chaka until A&M Records promotions people bestowed her first dance 12″ 45rpm on me, “Don’t You Blow A Good Thing”, back in 1986.
You’ve probably never heard of Vesta Williams unless you were into “descendant-of-disco” music in the major U.S. cities like New York City or San Francisco/L.A. back in the mid-1980s! She really did “nail” that Chaka Khan-type sound, as I re-listen to the two 12″ DJ singles that I was lucky enough to add to my library back then. After-all, Chaka was hot with “I Feel For You” in those days, and there were a couple of other ladies that were able to capitalize on that sound, and IMO, Vesta was one of them. I now wonder if somehow living in that shadow of a superstar of your genre may have weighed upon Ms. Williams – if the “overdose” rumors are proved true. Strange – whenever a singer or actor/actress is found dead in a hotel room, a “drug overdose” is always the first guess as to the cause of death. When you hear these initial rumors of an entertainer’s demise, what drug(s) do you think of? TMZ reports “multiple bottles of pills…” The same thing happened with my late friend, Phyllis Hyman.
I liked my other of my two “Vesta” A & M Records 12-inch singles, “Once Bitten Twice Shy” better. It’s bass line was real even, long-lasting and smooth and the song even became a kind of personal cautionary theme song of mine as I matured through my “playboy” women-dating days. LOL The Steve Hodge remix still sounds boss and full tonight as I play it in the background while I write these words. The song basically means “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!”
I never had the pleasure of being even close to meeting her in my radio glory days when she was “hot”, and yet she could have been in the room, or a club or bar with me simultaneously and I have the feeling we would have vibed, maybe had a beverage and talked about “the biz” and remained acquaintances. She actually “looks familiar” to me from my NYC radio DJ days. She was “hot” at the height of my radio career there. I wish that I had more vinyls by Vesta Williams, but as the art of music always does, it leaves us a wealth of material to eternally remember the artist.
I never stopped playing Vesta through the years when I could choose the music I played on my radio shows. She was made more for the airwaves and the nightclubs, in my opinion, and when I head of her passing away at only fifty-three today, I thought, “Wow! Where has she been all these years?” I pray theat an artist’s frustration with not being in the place that you planned to be at a certain stage of life didn’t get the best of her. Lord knows, I know exactly what that feels like… “Once Bitten…”
“Twice Shy.” Another choice voice who will be missed. If you knew her, or have other songs that are not part of my library that are your favorites, please weigh-in with them in my “comments” section below.
One that a couple of women I know in the singing business have mentioned is a sad ballad of unrequited love and betrayal called “Congratulations”. Vesta is now free from all of the physical world drama that she sang about. Bra-vo, Vesta.