William Bell (singer)

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William Bell
William Bell soul singer 1971.JPG
Bell in 1971
Background information
Also known asWilliam Yarbrough
Born (1939-07-16) July 16, 1939 (age 79)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresR&B, soul
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Years active1957–present
LabelsStax Records, Wilbe Records
Associated actsThe Del Rios

William Bell (born William Yarbrough; July 16, 1939)[1] is an American soul singer and songwriter. As a performer, he is probably best known for his debut single, 1961's "You Don't Miss Your Water"; 1968's top 10 hit in the UK "Private Number", a duet with Judy Clay; and his only US top 40 hit, 1976's "Tryin' to Love Two", which also hit No. 1 on the R&B chart. Upon the death of Otis Redding, Bell released the well-received memorial song "A Tribute to a King".

As a songwriter, Bell co-authored the Chuck Jackson hit "Any Other Way" (which was a cover since Bell issued it first) as a follow-up to "You Don't Miss Your Water"; Billy Idol's 1986 hit "To Be a Lover", which was first a hit for Bell under its original title "I Forgot to Be Your Lover"; and the blues classic "Born Under A Bad Sign", popularized by both Albert King and Cream.

Although he was a long-time recording artist for Stax Records, he is unrelated to the label's one-time president, Al Bell.


Bell was born in Memphis, Tennessee.[2] He took the last name "Bell" as a stage name in honor of his grandmother, whose first name was Belle.

He made his first leap into the music scene backing Rufus Thomas. In 1957, Bell recorded his first sides as a member of the Del Rios.[2]

William Bell was an early signing on Stax Records initially as a songwriter.[3] Other notable Stax Records artists include Otis Redding,[4] Sam and Dave,[5] Isaac Hayes,[6] and The Staple Singers.[7]

It was only after Bell served a stint in the military that he was finally able to release his debut album,[8] 1967's The Soul of a Bell, on Stax Records.[9] Bell's Top 20 single "Everybody Loves a Winner" was on this album.[10] Bell moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1969 and started up Peachtree Record Company, his short-lived soul label.[11][12]

In 1985, he founded another label, Wilbe, and issued Passion, which found its most receptive audiences in the UK.[2]

Two years later, Bell was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's R&B Pioneer Award that same year. Starting in 1992, Bell took a hiatus from the recording studio, while still performing regularly. In 2000, he released an album of all-new material on Wilbe entitled A Portrait Is Forever. In 2003, he was honored with the W.C. Handy Heritage Award. It wasn't until six years after his previous album that he released the album New Lease on Life.

In 2016, Bell reactivated the Stax Record Label to release a new album. Produced by John Leventhal, This Is Where I Live featured Bell performing a batch of new songs, along with a revived recording of "Born Under a Bad Sign".[2] In 2017, the album was awarded a Grammy for 'Best Americana Album,'[13] which took Bell's career to new heights including a featured performance alongside other legendary Stax acts at BBC's '50 Years of Soul' event at Royal Albert Hall in London, UK.[14] Additionally, William was one of the final performances at BB King's Blues Club in NYC before it closed in the spring of 2018.[15]

Covered by[edit]


In 2003 he was received both the W.C. Handy Heritage Award from the Memphis Music Foundation and the BMI Songwriter's Award.[22] He is featured in the Stax Museum of American Soul Music from his time with the label.[23]

In 2016, Bell was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Americana Music Association. He was joined by other legendary Americana acts such as Bob Weir, Shawn Colvin, and Billy Bragg.[24]

Bell was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class.[25] In 2016, Bell was nominated for two Grammy awards: Best Americana Album for This is Where I Live and Best Traditional R&B Performance for the track "The Three of Me".[26] On February 12, 2017, Bell won the Best Americana Album Grammy award for This is Where I Live.


Bell performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC in 2011.[27] He joined the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in 2012.[28] He sang "You Don't Miss Your Water" at the White House for "In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul" in 2013.[29] He performed at Billboard Live in Tokyo in 2015.[30] In 2015 he also performed at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony alongside Justin Timberlake.[31]

Recent activity[edit]

In 2016, Bell recorded his first major label album in over 30 years.[32] His song "You Don't Miss Your Water" is featured in the trailer and the first episode of the Cinemax TV series Quarry, which debuted in 2016.[33]

On 1 September 2017, age 78, Bell performed live at the Royal Albert Hall BBC Proms with Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra in a tribute concert to 50 years of Stax Records synonymous with Southern Soul music.



Year Label & Cat No Title Peak chart positions
U.S. Hot 100 U.S. R&B UK Singles Chart[34]
1961 Stax 116 "You Don't Miss Your Water" 95
1962 Stax 128 "Any Other Way" 131
1963 Stax 132 "I Told You So"
1963 Stax 135 "Just As I Thought"
1963 Stax 138 "Somebody Mentioned Your Name"
1963 Stax 141 "I'll Show You"[35]
1964 Stax 146 "Who Will It Be Tomorrow"
1965 Stax 174 "Crying All by Myself"
1966 Stax 191 "Share What You Got (But Keep What You Need)" 27
1966 Stax 199 "Never Like This Before" 29
1967 Stax 212 "Everybody Loves A Winner" 95 18
1967 Stax 227 "Eloise (Hang on in There)"
1967 Stax 237 "Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday" 33
1968 Stax 248 "Every Man Ought to Have A Woman" (A-Side) 115
1968 Stax 248 "A Tribute to a King" (B-Side) 86 16 31
1968 Stax 0005 "Private Number" (with Judy Clay) 75 17 8
1968 Stax 0015 "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" 45 10
1968 Stax 0017 "My Baby Specializes" (with Judy Clay) 104 45
1969 Stax 0032 "My Whole World is Falling Down" 39
1969 Stax 0038 "Happy" 129
1969 Stax 0040 "Soul-A-Lujah" (with Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, Pervis Staples, Carla Thomas, Mavis Staples and Cleotha Staples)
1969 Stax 0043 "Love's Sweet Sensation" (with Mavis Staples)
1969 Stax 0044 "I Can't Stop" (with Carla Thomas) 106
1969 Stax 0054 "Born Under A Bad Sign"
1970 Stax 0067 "All I Have to Do Is Dream" (with Carla Thomas)
1970 Stax 0070 "Lonely Soldier"
1971 Stax 0092 "A Penny for Your Thoughts"
1971 Stax 0106 "All for the Love of a Woman"
1972 Stax 0128 "Save Us"
1973 Stax 0157 "Lovin' On Borrowed Time" 101 22
1973 Stax 0175 "I've Got to Go on Without You" 54
1974 Stax 0198 "Gettin' What You Want (Losin' What You Got)" 39
1974 Stax 0221 "Get It While It's Hot"
1976 Mercury 73829 "Tryin' To Love Two" 10 1
1977 Mercury 73922 "Coming Back for More" 66
1977 Mercury 73961 "Easy Comin' Out (Hard Goin' In)" 30
1983 Kat Family 03502 "Bad Time to Break Up" 65
1983 Kat Family 03995 "Playing Hard to Get"
1985 Wilbe 201 "Lovin' On Borrowed Time" (new version)
1986 Wilbe 202 "I Don't Want to Wake Up (Feelin' Guilty)" (with Janice Bulluck) 59
1986 Wilbe 204 "Headline News" 65 70
1986 "Passion"
1985 Wilbe 205 "Please Come Home for Christmas"
1989 Wilbe 508 "Getting Out of Your Bed"
1990 Wilbe 515 "Need Your Love So Bad"
1992 Wilbe 619 "Bedtime Story"
1995 Wilbe 624 "Shake Hands (Come Out Lovin')"


  • 1967 The Soul of a Bell – Stax 709
  • 1969 Bound to Happen – Stax 2014
  • 1971 Wow ...William Bell – Stax 2037
  • 1972 Phases of Reality – Stax 3005
  • 1973 Waiting for William Bell – Stax 3012
  • 1974 Relating – Stax 5502
  • 1977 Coming Back for More – Mercury
  • 1977 It's Time You Took Another Listen – Mercury
  • 1983 Survivor – Kat Family
  • 1985 Passion – Wilbe
  • 1989 On a Roll – Wilbe
  • 1992 Bedtime Stories – Wilbe
  • 2001 A Portrait Is Forever – Wilbe
  • 2002 Collectors Edition – Wilbe
  • 2006 New Lease on Life – Wilbe
  • 2016 This Is Where I Live – Stax


  1. ^ "William Bell". IMDB.com. Retrieved July 5, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Jason Ankeny (1939-07-16). "William Bell | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  3. ^ "Artists". Stax Records. Archived from the original on November 21, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  4. ^ "Otis Redding". Stax Records. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  5. ^ "Sam & Dave". Stax Records. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  6. ^ "Isaac Hayes". Stax Records. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  7. ^ "The Staple Singers". Stax Records. December 19, 2000. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  8. ^ Murray, Noel. "William Bell: The Soul Of A Bell · Permanent Records · The A.V. Club". Avclub.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  9. ^ "William Bell on Apple Music". Itunes.apple.com. 1939-07-16. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  10. ^ "William Bell - The Soul Of A Bell (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  11. ^ "The Peachtree Record Company Story". Rate Your Music. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  12. ^ "William Bell Discography". Discogs.com. 1939-07-16. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  13. ^ http://theboot.com/william-bell-best-americana-album-2017-grammys-awards/
  14. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e656q9
  15. ^ https://www.relix.com/blogs/detail/william_bell_at_bb_kings_a_gallery
  16. ^ Linda Ronstadt. "LINDA RONSTADT - Don't Cry Now". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  17. ^ a b "Homer Simpson - Born Under A Bad Sign". YouTube. 2010-09-18. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  18. ^ "Blues | The Official Jimi Hendrix Site". Jimihendrix.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  19. ^ "Born Under a Bad Sign: Jimi Hendrix: MP3 Downloads". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  20. ^ "Photographic image of "Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday" record label" (JPG). Streamd.hitparade/ch. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  21. ^ "William Bell - Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday / Ain't Got No Girl (Vinyl)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  22. ^ "William Bell - Biography". Billboard. 1939-07-16. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  23. ^ "1957-1968". Stax Museum. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  24. ^ https://www.rollingstone.com/country/news/bob-weir-to-receive-americana-lifetime-achievement-award-w437110
  25. ^ "Memphis Music Hall of Fame announces 2016 inductees". Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  26. ^ "Singer and songwriter William Bell discusses his first Grammy nods after six decades in the Memphis soul business". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
  27. ^ "Smithsonian Folklife Festival to Feature Program on Rhythm and Blues | Newsdesk". Newsdesk.si.edu. 2011-06-20. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  28. ^ "STAX! The Memphis Sound". Memphissymphony.org. 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  29. ^ infomisa (2013-08-25), William Bell Performs "You Don't Miss Your Water" at In Performance at the White House, retrieved 2017-02-18
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 11, 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ Kreps, Daniel (2015-10-18). "Watch Justin Timberlake's Memphis Music Hall of Fame Induction". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  32. ^ Bell, William (2016-03-24). "Songs We Love: William Bell, 'The Three Of Me' : The Record". Npr.org. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  33. ^ Zusel, Yvonne (2015-12-03). "William Bell and the persistence of soul power". Myajc.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  34. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 55. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  35. ^ Ahmet Ertegun, Greil Marcus, Perry Richardson – "What'd I say?": the Atlantic story : 50 years of music 2001 p.533 "William Bell releases his compositions, 'I Told You So', 'Just As I Thought' (Steve Cropper and Deanie Parker), 'Somebody Mentioned Your Name' (William Bell and Booker T. Jones) and 'I'll Show You'."

External links[edit]