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Williams, Deniece (3rd June 1951-Present)

She is a singer-songwriter, producer and radio presenter born June Deniece Chandler in Gary, Indiana, often nicknamed “Niecy”.  As a child she would be seen singing in a pentecostal church gospel choir and she would idolise her mother who was also a singer.

She moved to Chicago to become a hospital candy-striper and recorded her first single in the late 1960s on the Toddlin’ Town label.

She started her career in the music industry when she joined Stevie Wonder’s backing group, Wonderlove, after having been introduced to him by her cousin who was his valet and a childhood friend.  The other members, who changed during the years, would include Lynda Lawrence, Syreeta Wright and Minnie Riperton, who she was often likened to for her soprano vocal abilities. She would later be heard using her soprano style as backing for Minnie Riperton’s “Every Time He Comes Around”.

Leaving them in 1975 she began working with Earth, Wind & Fire’s lead singer and producer Maurice White and in 1976 released her debut album This is Niecy which gave her the hit singles “Free”, “Cause You Love Me Baby” and “That’s What Friends Are For”.  At the same time in 1976 she teamed back up with Minnie Riperton to provide the backing vocals on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life.

In 1978 she began working with Johnny Mathis and their duet  “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”, which was taken from the album You Light Up My Life, would top the Billboard chart and reach No.3 in the UK.  Their song “You’re All I Need to Get By” would also achieve chart status and “Without You” became well known for its use as the theme for the TV sitcom Family Ties.

In 1980/1 she moved from the Columbia label to the American Recording Company and immediately saw success with “Silly” and “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” and then in 1984 she topped the Billboard chart and reached No. 2 in the UK with “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” which was featured in the movie Footloose.

Although she consistently released further albums in 1986, 1987 and 1988 and had her last Top 10 hit with “I Can’t Wait” she began to lose her popularity, with suggestion that part of it was down to her not receiving the promotion she should have by her record company.

Working in the UK she began presenting a gospel music show on BBC radio in 1996.

In 2007 she released a solo album after more than ten years, Love Niecy Style, although her duets with Johnny Mathis were re-released in 1995 in the album Too Much, Too Little, Too Late.

As a songwriter her compositions have been performed and recorded by artists such as The Whispers, Frank Valli, The Emotions and Merry Clayton.

Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams recordings
Emotions (Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late (Nat Kipner/John Vallins)