Sunday, February 22, 2009
Marion Williams - American Gospel Singer
Marion Williams (August 29, 1927 – July 2, 1994) was an American gospel singer. She was born in Miami, to a religiously devout mother and musically inclined father. She left school when she was nine years old to support the family. She worked as a maid and a nurse and in factories and laundries. Even then, she was singing before audiences. As was common in the area, Williams was exposed to African American blues and jazz, alongside Caribbean calypso. Poverty caused Williams to leave school at fourteen, working with her mother at a laundry. She was singing at church and on street corners, inspired by a wide range of musicians including Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Smith Jubilee Singers. She stuck with gospel, however, in spite of pressure to switch to popular blues tunes or the opera.
In 1946, while visiting her sister in Philadelphia, she happened to sing before an audience that included Clara Ward and Gertrude Ward. They recognized her talent and offered her a job. A year later, she became a part of the famous Ward Singers. Her growling, hands-on-the-hips vocal style made her the group's undisputed star.
In 1958, she and other members of the Ward group formed the Stars of Faith. In 1965, began her solo career. For the next 15 years she toured the United States, Africa and the West Indies.