The music world suffered a great loss on Thursday, September 22, 2011, when news spread that Rhythm & Blues singer, songwriter, and actress, Vesta Williams passed away. Vesta, best known for her powerful voice and 1980’s hit song, Congratulations, was found dead in her California hotel room. Sources from law enforcement told TMZ that multiple bottles of prescription pills were found in Vesta’s hotel room and that some were even empty. Williams’ death is being called a suicide or an accidental death. Although several rumors circulated that Vesta was 48 years of age and some, 53, reports have confirmed that she was only 48 years old. Toxicology reports could take up to six weeks to disclose results; therefore, the coroner will not be sure if Vesta’s unexpected death was drug related or not until that time. One of Vesta’s closest friends, Jackee Harry, tweeted her condolences in regards to Williams’ sudden death. “…just received truly devastating news: R&B great, and my friend of many yrs, Vesta Williams (@vest4u), has passed away. #RIPVesta.”
Born on December 1, 1963, Vesta Williams, an Ohio native, started entertaining at an early age. With vocal and comedienne skills, Ms. Williams was on her way. According to Vesta's official website, as a creative songwriter, Vesta not only collaborated on albums with Chuckii Booker and Brian McKnight, she also served as a background vocalist for Jermaine Jackson, David Benoit, Bobby Womack, Chaka Kahn, Gladys Knight, and Anita Baker, just to name a few. Williams also could be heard on the radio jingles for Revlon, Nike/Air Jordan, Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream, and Diet Coke. There was more to come, as Vesta scored a No.1 hit and video for her single, Congratulations.
Since recording her first album, Williams was not only known for being a true singer, but also a comedienne, as she has tried her hand at stand up comedy. As Vesta furthered her career, she began to venture into the world of film as an actress. She scored grave reviews as the saloon singer in the celebrated Mario Van Peebles film, POSSE. Vesta stated, “I’ve always felt that to deliver a song successfully, you have to be an actress. A good actress becomes the part, just as a good singer becomes the song.” Vesta’s comedic talents caught the eye of Van Peebles indirectly, and won her this role. What is more, Williams also wrote and performed two songs for POSSE’s soundtrack, Tell Me and Ride For Your Life. Vesta’s comedic talents also caught the eye of other casting directors from the television world, and therefore, she was casted in the popular TV sitcom, Sister, Sister. On this show, Vesta played the recurring role of Monica, which was the best friend of Lisa Landrey played by actress and Broadway mogul, Jackee Harry.
Unfortunately, the limelight started to burn out for Vesta Williams, as she went through an excessive weight-gaining period. With Vesta being only 5’3 and unfortunately reaching a size 26, she admitted that she felt that this was the reason she lost her recording contract. “When I lost my record deal, and my phone wasn’t ringing, I realized that I had to reassess who Vesta was and figure out what was going wrong. I knew it wasn’t my singing ability. So it had to be that I was expendable because I didn’t have the right look,” Williams lamented. After going through a striking 100-pound weight loss program and down to a size 6 in the 1990’s, Vesta interviewed with Ebony Magazine in 1996 and had the opportunity to set the record straight, as she explained that she began gaining excessive weight because her singing career started to fall off.
In more recent years, Vesta Williams had really been back on her feet. Not only had she started back working on music, she also had a new video released to her single, Dedicated. Williams also started back performing and appearing on several shows. Recently, Williams appeared on BET’s The Monique Show, as she discussed her life after the success of her popular song, Congratulations. Additionally, Vesta was scheduled to perform at the annual Los Angeles DIVAS Simply Singing! Concert on October 22, 2011. This event promotes AIDS and HIV awareness and will now pay tribute to not only Vesta Williams, but also the late, great Teena Maria, who passed in December 2010.
Personally, I feel that Vesta Williams was a great entertainer and a powerhouse vocalist. One of my favorite songs by Ms. Williams was her hit single, Congratulations and I also can vividly remember her role as Monica on the television sitcom, Sister, Sister. What an awesome talent, and she definitely will be truly missed.
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