The Deniece Williams Biography
Part One

Born Deniece Chandler on June 3, 1951 in Gary, Indiana, Williams is a gospel/soul singer whose successes span the 70s and 80s. As a child she sang in a gospel choir and made her first recordings in the late 60s for the Chicago-based Toddlin' Town label. Deniece grew up singing in a penacostal church, which was strict on the congregation listening only to Gospel music. During the late sixties, she was a candy-striper in a Chicago hospital. Outside of wanting a 1959 Thunderbird, she had no serious ambitions. Nontheless, she still had interest in listening to music. Her favorites were Carmen McCrae for her diction and Nancy Wilson, who, for Williams, exemplified class and elegance. However, her mother, also a singer, was her idol. The Gary, IN native was also fond of Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Minnie Riperton and Patti LaBelle. (The latter two she tried to emulate before her introduction into the music industry.)

In need of employment and with college on the back-burner, the fledgling singer was introduced to Stevie Wonder by her cousin (John Harris) from Detroit, who happened to be on tour as a valet for Wonder (and was also his childhood friend). Her cousin arranged for Williams to meet Wonder backstage at a concert. Six months later, the gifted vocalist was flown into Detroit by Wonder for an audition. Among the 26 who auditioned, Williams, who sang 'Teach Me Tonight', was only one of three who was hired by Wonder. The three became known as Wonderlove.

Williams being hired by Wonder was a big surprise. Soon after the audition, she toured with Wonder who was the opening act for the Rolling Stones at the time. Her touring with Stevie Wonder lasted for several years. Though her stint with Wonder was a great experience and opportunity, it was also difficult considering Willaims had to make many adjustments professionally and personally (she had two sons prior to taking the gig: 4 month-old and 18 month-old).

In 1975, Williams provided background vocals for Minnie Riperton's classic 'Perfect Angel' album (mainly produced by Stevie Wonder), and then left Wonderlove that same year. Later, Deniece teamed up with producers Maurice White and Charles Stepney, the creative leaders of Earth, Wind & Fire. Under White's direction, Williams learned the business of music and was able to unwind and express herself musically. Under the Columbia banner, Williams released her first album entitled 'This Is Niecy' (produced by White & Stepney) in 1976. It featured the Billboard R&B number two single 'Free', which also hit the Top 25 on the pop charts. This 'signature' song (later covered by Will Downing in the 1980's!!) was personal to Williams, who felt restricted while with Wonderlove. The album also featured many EWF players and the songs 'Cause You Love Me Baby' and 'That's What Friends Are For' (which Williams later sang as a duet with Johnny Mathis). Also in 1976, Williams rejoined Riperton & Wonder on his landmark album 'Songs in The Key Of Life' (a Grammy winner!!).