Ultimate soul crooner and Oakland native, Lenny Williams, possesses one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music. With his rich, passionate vocal style, he is rightfully regarded as one of R&B’s most influential soul men.
Williams began his musical career making records that have become R&B and Pop classics (e.g. “Cause I Love You” (recorded on his solo album) and “So Very Hard To Go”, which he recorded as the lead singer of Tower of Power). Lenny Williams’ style has transcended into the new millennium, influencing many of today’s most popular R&B and Hip Hop artists.
Lenny sounds better than ever as he continues to keep the focus on love. “Love is what has gotten me through all of these years. I look for love and I surround myself with it”, Lenny says. When it comes to singing love songs, one must “go there to know there” and Lenny never left. He is able to take the listener to the heart of love with such soulful aplomb because love will never go out of style and no one does it better.
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Lenny moved to Oakland at a very young age. Learning to play the trumpet in elementary school fueled his interest in music. Lenny’s skills as a vocalist were first nurtured by singing in gospel choirs and groups around the Bay Area, where he was in good company working alongside up and coming artist Sly Stone, Andre Crouch, Billy Preston and members of the Hawkins family – Edwin, Walter and Tramaine.
After winning several local talent contests, Williams signed his first record deal with Fantasy Records. He recorded two singles for the label, including “Lisa’s Gone” [now regarded as an R&B classic among British soul music lovers] and “Feelin Blue”, written by John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival. Lenny then spent a brief time with Atlantic Records before deciding to put his solo career on hold when he joined the emerging funk band Tower of Power in 1972. A string of hits ensued, including “So Very Hard To Go” and “Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of the Stream)” [written by Lenny Williams and Johnny “Guitar” Watson]. During his two years with the group, Lenny participated in three milestone albums with them – [the gold LP] Tower Of Power, Back To Oakland, and Urban Renewal, while touring nonstop throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.
At the end of 1975, Lenny returned to his solo projects. Initially signing with Motown in 1972, he later moved to ABC Records in 1977 (which was then purchased by MCA Records in 1979). Over the next four years, Lenny scored ten charted hits, including “Shoo Doo Fu Fu Ooh”, “Choosing You”, “You Got Me Running”, “Love Hurt Me Love Healed Me” and “Midnight Girl”. Lenny recorded four more albums from 1977 – 1980, Choosing You (his first gold LP), Spark of Love, Love Current and Let’s Do It Today. These albums established a solid and loyal following for Lenny. The impact of his music can still be felt today, particularly the mega hit “Cause I Love You” [Spark of Love]. This song crosses generational boundaries and has frequently been used on old school and slow jam compilations throughout the years.
In 1986, Lenny was invited to sing vocals on “Don’t Make Me Wait For Love”, a song from superstar sax man Kenny G’s multi-platinum selling album Duo Tones. When released as a single in 1987, the song became a Top 20 Pop and R&B hit.
Over the past few years, Lenny has continued his solo career, touring the U.S., Europe and South Africa. In 2004 and 2005, Lenny and Kanye West were honored recipients of the BMI Songwriter’s Award for the song “Over Night Celebrity”, recorded by rapper Twista. He has recently shared stages with Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, K-Jon, Anthony Hamilton, The Whispers, Rick James, Boney James, Bobby Womack, The Ohio Players, Al Green, Usher and Frankie Beverly & Maze. Lenny has also expanded his multi-dimensional career to include acting, starring in several popular stage plays. As an icon of the past and present, Lenny Williams continues to expand his musical prowess and flex his newfound acting skills. He’ll surely continue to wow his fans in the United States and beyond for decades to come.