Oliver (singer)

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Oliver 1972.JPG
1972 publicity photo
William Oliver Swofford

(1945-02-22)February 22, 1945
DiedFebruary 12, 2000(2000-02-12) (aged 54)
Resting placeLaurel Land Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas, U.S.
EducationWilkes Central High School
Alma materUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Margaret Hicks Ramspacher
(m. 1974⁠–⁠1988)

Rebecca Jean Alexander
(m. 1991⁠–⁠2000)
Musical career
Years active1969–77

William Oliver Swofford (February 22, 1945 – February 12, 2000), known professionally as Oliver, was an American pop singer, best known for his 1969 song "Good Morning Starshine" from the musical Hair as well as "Jean" (the theme from the film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie).


William Oliver Swofford was born on February 22, 1945, in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, to Jack and Helen Swofford.[1] He was a recipient of the prestigious Morehead Scholarship and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill starting in 1963 and began singing as an undergraduate. He was a member of two popular music groups — The Virginians and, later, The Good Earth — and was then known as Bill Swofford.

His clean-cut good looks and soaring tenor voice were the perfect vehicle for the uptempo single titled "Good Morning Starshine" from the pop/rock musical Hair, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1969, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. a month later.[2] Later that fall, a softer, ballad single titled "Jean" (the theme from the Oscar-winning film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) bested his previous effort by one, reaching No. 2 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. Written by poet Rod McKuen, "Jean" also sold over one million copies, garnering Oliver his second gold disc in as many months.[2] Performing both hits on a number of television variety shows and specials in the late 1960s, including The Ed Sullivan Show, helped both songs.

Oliver had more modest commercial success, however, with the cover of "Sunday Mornin'", which peaked at No. 35 in December 1969, and "Angelica", which stalled at No. 97 four months later. His cover of "I Can Remember", the 1968 James & Bobby Purify hit, missed the Hot 100 but climbed into the top 25 of the Billboard Easy Listening chart in the mid summer of 1970.[3] Late that fall, Oliver also had one inspirational recording titled "Light the Way", composed by Eric Carmen. Oliver's last single to enter the pop music charts was his 1971 cover of "Early Morning Rain" by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. The song "Bubbled Under" at No. 124 on May 1, 1971 and also reached No. 38 on the Easy Listening chart a few weeks later.[4]

As producer Bob Crewe preferred elaborately orchestrated musical arrangements and Oliver preferred a simpler folk sound, these "creative differences" led them to part ways in 1971.[5] Resuming the name Bill "Oliver" Swofford, the singer toured hundreds of college campuses in the eastern and southern United States in 1976 and 1977. He was recorded on numerous albums of his friends including Steve Goodman and is credited with guitar, and vocals on several of Steve's albums. He and Goodman wrote one of the songs together (Jessie's Jig (Rob's Romp, Beth's Bounce)) which was released on the album Jessie's Jig and Other Favorites and dedicated it to their children. His natural talent and vocal range made him one who was called often for recording sessions.

Personal life and death[edit]

Despite his vocal and songwriting talents, Swofford was unable to sustain further success on the charts and, in 1983, People magazine ran a feature article on Swofford, describing him as a happily married father who kept his distance from the music industry, working sales for a new home builder. He was divorced the following year. He then landed a job at a major American pharmaceutical company where he quickly rose through the ranks to a director-level position and responsible for one of its major cardio drugs. He was so successful in this role that after his death, the company created the "Bill Swofford Leadership Award", which it still awards today to his highest performing leader. During the last ten years of his life, he served as President of the American Heart Association in North Louisiana; He served as music director for several churches in Shreveport and from time to time performed as "Oliver" for various fundraisers. He maintained a rigorous schedule until 6 weeks before he died.

Swofford was married twice. His first marriage was to Margaret Hicks Ramspacher, from 1974 to 1987, and he adopted her children, Beth Swofford (CAA Partner & art collector) of New York and Rob Swofford of Austin, Texas. He married Rebecca Jean Alexander in 1991 and moved to Pennsylvania, followed by Shreveport until his death in early 2000.

Oliver, along with his three brothers, Carl Swofford, James "Jim" Swofford, and John Swofford, attended Wilkes Central High School, where they were three-sport lettermen playing football and other sports for the Wilkes Central Eagles. He was a member of the 1962 Wilkes Central High School football team which won 11 straight games and the Western North Carolina High School Athletics Association ("WNCHSAA") championship. (At that time, there were two "state" champions, one for western North Carolina and one (NCHSAA) for the rest of the state.) Bill was on the track team as well until a torn muscle in his leg grounded him from continuing sports and allowed him to focus more on his music. Jim, a lineman, went on to play collegiate football at Duke University. John, who was quarterback for the Eagles, went on to play quarterback for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and later became its athletic director and the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1997.

For a number of years in the mid-1990s, Oliver was treated for Sjögren syndrome, before being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. By the time that disease was confirmed, it had spread throughout his body, giving little hope of a full remission. In 1999, his brother John donated his bone marrow for a transplant to try to save Bill's life. However, he died ten months later on February 12, 2000, at LSU Hospital in Shreveport, ten days shy of his 55th birthday. He is buried at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas.

In 2009, Ted Brown, a native of Swofford's home town, asked North Carolina legislators to introduce a resolution in the North Carolina General Assembly to honor Swofford and his contributions to music. On July 7, 2009, the resolution was passed.[6] On the 40th anniversary of Swofford's hit-making success, Brown chaired and directed a musical tribute in honor of Swofford. The festival was appropriately named "OliverFest". Bob Crewe, and "60's on 6" celebrity disc jockey, Phlash Phelps, served as honorary co-chair(s) with Brown.

Oliver was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010.[7]



Year Album Billboard 200 Record Label
1969 Good Morning Starshine 19 Crewe Records
1970 Again 71
1971 The Best of Oliver
1971 Prisms United Artists Records
1997 Oliver United Artists Records
2005 Good Morning Starshine:The Best of Oliver Taragon Records


Year Title Peak chart positions Record Label B-side Album
1969 "Good Morning Starshine" 3 3 6 Jubilee Records "Can't You See" Good Morning Starshine
"Jean" 2 1 Crewe Records "The Arrangement"
"Sunday Mornin'" 35 14 "Letmekissyouwithadream"
1970 "Angelica" 97 26 "Anna" Again
"I Can Remember" 24 "Where There's A Heartache (There Must Be A Heart)"
"Light the Way" United Artists Records "Sweet Kindness" Prisms
1971 "Early Morning Rain" 124 38 "Catch Me If You Can"
1973 "Everybody I Love You" Paramount Records "I Am Reaching"


  • Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard Book of #1 Adult Contemporary Hits (Billboard Publications)


  1. ^ "North Carolina General Assembly - House Joint Resolution 1653 Information/History (2009-2010 Session)". Ncleg.net. Retrieved 2015-08-24.
  2. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 264. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  3. ^ Billboard Magazine. Billboard Publications. 1970-08-08. p. 31. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  4. ^ "Oliver Songs ••• Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf.com. Retrieved 2015-08-24.
  5. ^ Lamparski, Richard. Whatever Became of...? All New Tenth Series. New York: Crown Books, 1986.
  6. ^ "North Carolina General Assembly - House Joint Resolution 1653 Information/History (2009-2010 Session)". Ncleg.net. Retrieved 2015-08-24.
  7. ^ "2010 Inductees". North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 10, 2012.

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