Deniece Williams (born June Deniece Chandler; June 3, 1951) is an American singer, songwriter, and producer affectionately known as “Niecy”. Williams has been described as “one of the great soul voices” by the Williams has won four Grammys with twelve nominations altogether.She is the original Black Butterfly.
Born in Gary, Indiana, Williams attended Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, in the hopes of becoming a registered nurse and an anesthetist, but dropped out after a year and a half. Of the experience she went on to say “You have to be a good student to be in college, and I wasn’t.”Williams went on to start up performing at the time. She later exclaimed “I got a part-time job singing at a club, Casino Royal, and I liked it. It was a lot of fun.” During those years Williams also worked in a telephone company and as a ward clerk at the Chicago Mercy Hospital.As Deniece Chandler, she recorded for The Toddlin’ Town group of labels. One of those early records, I’m Walking Away, released on Toddlin’s subsidiary Lock Records in the late 1960s, is a favorite on England’s Northern Soul scene. A brief spell in 1969 with Patti Hamilton’s. The Lovelites resulted in her lead on I’m Not Like The Others, a track that was eventually released in 1999. She married Kendrick Williams , a former class mate before she took the opportunity to relocate to California in the early 1970s where she became a backup vocalist for Stevie Wonder as part of “Wonderlove”, lending her vocals on his albums Talking Book, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life. Williams also appeared on Syreeta Wright’s 1974 album Stevie Wonder Presents: Syreeta, Minnie Riperton’s 1974 album Perfect Angel andRoberta Flack’s 1975 album Feel Like Makin’ Love.
She left Wonder in 1975 to sign a deal with Columbia Records and Kalimba Productions. Kalimba was a production company started by Maurice White and Charles Stepney. Williams went on to work on her first studio album with both White and Stepney as its producers. Released in 1976 This Is Niecy rose to Nos. 3 and 33 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Billboard 200 charts. This is Niecy has also been certified Platinum in the United States by the RIAA and silver in the UK by the British Phonographic Industry. An album cut, “Free”, got to nos. 1, 2 & 25 on the UK Singles, Billboard Hot R&B Songs and Hot 100charts respectively. Another single being “That’s What Friends Are For” rose to No. 8 on the UK Singles chart. A few months after the release of This Is Niecy, Charles Stepney died. White went on to solely produce Williams’ second album, Song Bird, released in 1977. The album rose to No. 23 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart. The single, “Baby, Baby My Love’s All for You”, reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and No. 32 UK Singles chart.
Williams guested on Roberta Flack’s 1977 album, Blue Lights in the Basement, and sang along with Maurice White on Weather Report’s 1978 album, Mr. Gone. In April 1977, “Free”, recorded the previous year, was released as a single in the UK where it reached No.1 for two weeks in May.
Williams went on to issue a duet album with Johnny Mathis dubbed That’s What Friends Are For in 1978 on Columbia for Kalimba Productions. The LP rose to Nos. 14 & 19 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums and Billboard 200 charts respectively. A song from the album called “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Soul Songs and Adult Contemporary Songs charts. William’s fourth studio recording When Love Comes Calling was issued in 1979 by the American Record Corporation (ARC), Maurice White’s vanity label on Columbia. The album rose to No. 27 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart. A single from the album, “I’ve Got the Next Dance”, rose to No. 1 on theBillboard Dance/Club Play chart.
Williams issued her follow-up album, My Melody, in 1981 on Columbia/ARC. The album rose to No. 13 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart. The single, “Silly”, reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart.
Williams issued her follow up album, Niecy, in 1981 on Columbia/ARC. Niecy rose to No. 20 on the Billboard 200 and No. 5 on the Top Soul Albums charts. .A cover of The Royalettes’ “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and No. 10 on the Hot 100 charts. Williams and Mathis collaborated once again to record “Without Us” the theme song of the sitcom, Family Ties which debuted in September 1982.
During 1983 she released her seventh studio album, I’m So Proud, which got to No. 10 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female category. Williams released the album Let’s Hear It for the Boy in 1984. The title track reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was featured on the soundtrack to Footloose. She also performed as a background vocalist on Stevie Wonder’s 1985 album, In Square Circle. Williams went on to release her 1986 album, Hot on the Trail, which reached No. 58 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The next year she released her tenth studio album, Water Under the Bridge, which rose to No. 39 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. “Never Say Never” charted at Nos. 6 and 23 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Dance Club Songs respectively.
A year later she released her follow-up studio album, As Good As It Gets, which rose to No. 48 on the Top R&B Hip-Hop Albums chart. “I Can’t Wait” charted at No. 8 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Another single, “This Is As Good As It Gets”, rose to No. 29 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Although Williams had recorded one inspirational song on almost each of her mainstream albums, it was in 1980 that her musical career path began to change favoring Gospel music. Williams joined with friends Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire fame, Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo to present a gospel show at The Roxy, a popular Los Angeles club: “Jesus at the Roxy”. Williams later reported that “God did something miraculous. Over three hundred people were saved.”In 1985, at the 27th Annual Grammy Awards, Williams sang an a cappella version of her 1977 composition “God Is Amazing”, a Gospel song, rather than her No. 1 song “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”, much to her record company’s disdain.
During 1986 her first gospel studio album, So Glad I Know, was released on Sparrow Records, and got to No. 8 on the Billboard Top Christian Albums chart and was nominated for Best Gospel Performance, Female Grammy. “They Say”, a duet with Sandi Patti, Williams won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, Choir or Chorus and for “I Surrender All”, she won the Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance, Female.
During 1999 she released another Gospel album, This Is My Song, on Harmony Records. The album rose to No. 14 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart. As well This Is My Song won a Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album.
Williams went on to release a R&B studio album, Love, Niecy Style, produced by Philly Soul veteran Bobby Eli, in April 2007 on Shanachie Records. Love, Niecy Style rose to No. 41 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. On October 13, 2007 Williams performed in her hometown of Gary, Indiana at the re-opening of the historic Glen Theater. Williams was thereafter recognized by Indiana State Representative Vernon G. Smith as an Outstanding Hoosier.
During October 2007 Williams went on to issue a single called, “Grateful: The Rededication”, with Wanda Vaughn of The Emotions and Sherree Brown. The single got to No. 40 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart. On April 29, 2008, Williams announced that she was preparing a proposal to establish a program called KOP—Kids of Promise—in her hometown of Gary, Indiana. Williams said the program would include a center with classes and programs dedicated to education and the performing arts. On August 27, 2008, a new song, “One Kiss”, was posted on YouTube. The song was produced by the Haven Media Group and the video was directed by director Dabling Harward. Also posted on the same date was an inspirational anthem, “A Change We Can Believe In”, written by Williams, percussionist Jerry Peters, and songwriter Harvey Mason. On June 27, 2010, Williams performed her song “Silly” at the BET Awards featuringMonica.In January 2011, she performed “Free” on Way Black When: Looking Back at the 1970s on TVOne. As well in June 2011, Williams was featured on Unsung, TV One’s signature music biography series. 2009-2019 Niecy still travels the performing concerts of her classic hits worldwide!
In 2018-current she developed a web-series through her own production company DENIECE WILLIAMS PRODUCTIONS called “Diva Stories” which airs on her youtube channel (47,000 subscribers and climbing) and facebook page (@niecyofficial) with over 150,000 every Monday 12 noon EST. Her “Diva Stories” chronicles candid but fun moments that Deniece has encountered with other legendary artists over the years such as Aretha Franklin, PRINCE, Teddy Pendergrass, Johnny Mathis, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Maurice White and many others! Season One ended in December 2018, Season Two has just relaunched, airs July 29, 2019.
Williams went on to appear in the 2003 holiday movie Christmas Child. During December 2005 she appeared on the reality-dating show Elimidate as part of their “Celebrity Week”.
Deniece Williams has a four-octave range and distinctive soprano voice. Her vocal range was also pointed out by The New York Times, “Miss Williams mounted a spectacular vocal display in which her penetrating, feline soprano soared effortlessly to E flat above high C, and she worked various vowel sounds into prolonged feats of vocal gymnastics.” In pointing to Williams’s similar vocal ability as her former musical icon and colleague (Minnie Riperton), Mark Anthony Neal, in referencing Jill Scott’s agility in displaying vocal acrobatics, states, “Scott draws on her upper register recalling the artistry of the late Minnie Riperton and “songbird” Deniece Williams.” According to Monica Haynes of Post-Gazette.com, Williams “has the kind of range that would make Mariah Carey quiver”.