raised in coshocton, ohio, vesta williams began to distinguish herself as an entertainer at an early age. the daughter of a radio disc jokey, williams moved with her family to los angeles in the 1960s and appeared on the television show jack & jill, along with her sisters, as part of the williams sisters. in high school, she continued to sing and began to perform stand-up comedy. though she moved back to ohio in 1977, she continued to perform as part of her cousin's band. as part of fifth demention member robert townsend's band, wild honey, vesta gained the experience and recognition necessary to launch a solo career. with her passion now her profession, she became one of the industry's most sought-after studio singers. commercial jingles for companies such as mcdonald's, diet coke, honda and revlon, among others, eventually lead to gigs as a back-up singer for the likes of chaka khan, anita baker, stephanie mills and gladys knight.
williams met producer david crawford through joe sample (who recently collaborated with lalah hathaway on the song lives on), for whom she'd recorded the original vocals for "the survivor". her meeting with crawford led to a 1986 record contract with a&m records, which resulted in four releases, beginning with the self-titled vesta. featuring patti labelle hair, vesta tore her way through the album's eleven sassy r&b tracks. while all those who were privleged to hear vesta became life-long fans, the album barely made a dent in the market, failing to cross over to white audiences. the self-assured lyrics and delivery of such songs as "don't blow a good thing", "get out of my life" and "i can make your dreams come true" helped to establish williams as a diva-in-the-making, but it was "it's you" that foreshadowed the musical direction that she would eventually take.
1988 saw the release of vesta's breakthough album, vesta 4 u. the first two singles "sweet, sweet love" and "congratulations"received considerable play on black radio stations and jet published articles about the hot, "new" singer with a four-octave range. as the masses became introduced to her voice, they also got a glimpse of her comedic talents. when asked, during an appearance on the arsenio hall show, if she had written the song "congratulations" based on personal experience, the soulstress quipped, "oh, no, honey. if that ever happened to me, i'd probably burn the church down, or something". it was during that same episode that arsenio hall coaxed vesta into doing a riotous impersonation of patti labelle and michael mcdonald performing their recent hit, "on my own". additionallly, viewers of bet's video soul were treated to a whole week of vesta as guest vj. unfortunately, the publicity surrounding vesta 4 u peetered out prior to exposing the hits "hunger" and "running into memories"both of which are as powerful as they are passionate.
vesta's next two albumsspecial and everything-n-moremay not have enjoyed the commercial success of her sophomore release, but that didn't stop her from growing as an artist by contributing as both a writer and producer. slowly, on special, vesta began to turn away from more up-tempo material and focus her attention on ballads that provided her an opportunity to truly develop her vocal range. songs like "special" and "thank you for the chance" built upon her best work from both vesta and vesta 4 u while paving the road for everything- n-more and relationships. about the same time that everything-n-more was released, vesta appeared in the mario van peebles film posse as vera, a mae west-like saloon singer with the mouth of a sailor and a heart of gold.
after the release of everything-n-more, vesta began the search for a new record label. but it wasn't until after a tour with the renowned jazz quartet, fourplay, that she would find her new recording home. "i did the fourplay tour and, in the interim, made some really good friends in the band. lee ritenour and i really hit it off, so he started calling me to work on other projects like the eric marienthal record easy street. i did a cover of the aretha franklin tune, 'til you come back to me'. soon he started telling me about this label he was putting together," vesta explains. the sense of stability ritenour's label promised, coupled with a sincere interest in and attention to her career, was all vesta needed to sign on. "i was excited about being a priority at a label," vesta adds.
aside from marking her return to recording, relationships is significant because it is vesta's first concept album. ten original songspenned by vestaand a cover of stevie wonder's "you and i" trace vesta's personal journey through the sometimes rocky wilderness of relationships. performing both lead and background vocals on all the songs not only supports the intense intimacy of the lyrics, but also provides listners with a generous dose of vesta's soul stylings.
over the years, vesta has proven herself to be a talented singer, songwriter and comedian. additionally, vesta has helped to expand the role of women within the music industry by helping them to clear the final hurdle set in front of them and land comfortably in positions as engineers and producers. james dickerson's book women on top details vesta's role in furthering the career of producer/songwriter tena clark, explaining that when label executives refused her request that clark produce several of the tracks on vesta 4 u ms. williams replied that, unless they acquiesced, she may just come down with a case of laryngitis that would last five yearsthe duration of her contract with a&m. clark puts it, "she broke down doors for me. it's so rare that someone has the balls to stand up for what they believe in, and i will always be indebted to her for that." by earning the respect of the music community and doing her best to provide opportunities for women in all facets of the industry, vesta has truly proven herself a diva.