William Bell (singer)

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William Bell
William Bell soul singer 1971.JPG
Bell in 1971
Background information
Also known as William Yarbrough
Born (1939-07-16) July 16, 1939 (age 77)
Origin Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Genres R&B, soul
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1957–present
Labels Stax Records, Wilbe Records
Associated acts The Del Rios
Website http://www.williambell.com/

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 1961's "You Don't Miss Your Water" (his debut single); 1968's "Private Number" (a duet with Judy Clay, and a top 10 hit in the UK); and 1976's "Tryin' to Love Two", Bell's only US top 40 hit, which also hit No. 1 on the R&B charts. 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" (itself 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" (originally 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.

After releasing a few scattered singles in the late 1950s as a member of the vocal group The Del-Rios, Bell began recording for the Stax label in 1961. He was an early signing to Stax Records, which also included Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes and The Staple Singers.

He scored a minor hit (#95 pop) with his first Stax single, the country-flavored "You Don't Miss Your Water", which was covered by Otis Redding as the B-side of his 1967 top 20 R&B live single Shake,[3] by The Byrds on their 1968 country-rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo and by Taj Mahal on his album The Natch'l Blues in the same year. Further singles followed, both as a solo artist and (for one single) as a member of The Del-Rios. National chart success for these singles was non-existent, but Bell was successful enough as a regional artist that Stax stuck with him for seven straight non-charting singles. In 1966, Bell finally broke through with his first substantial R&B hit, "Share What You Got (But Keep What You Need)".

In 1967, Bell released his first full-length album, “The Soul of a Bell,” on Stax, which included the Top 20 hit single, “Everybody Loves a Winner" [4]. He co-wrote the song "Born Under A Bad Sign" with Booker T. Jones, which became a signature song for blues musician Albert King. It was later popularized by the power trio Cream. A year later, in 1968, Bell's collaboration with Judy Clay yielded the memorable hit "Private Number."[2]

"I Forgot to Be Your Lover" (1968) was remade into a U.S. Top 10 pop hit by Billy Idol in 1986 as "To Be a Lover." It had previously been covered by the Jamaican singer George Faith and was the (amended) title tune for his 1977 album To Be a Lover, and has since been sampled by Ludacris on his song "Growing Pains" from Word of Mouf, Jaheim on "Put That Woman First" from Still Ghetto and by Dilated Peoples on the song "Worst Comes to Worst".

In 1969, Bell moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1969 and started up his own record label, Peachtree Record Company.[5]

Bell continued to record for Stax through the label's dissolution in 1975, with modest commercial success. He then switched to Mercury, and in 1977 topped Billboard 's Hot Soul Singles chart with "Tryin' to Love Two" (Billboard Hot 100, #10).

Linda Ronstadt covered Bell’s song “Everybody Loves A Winner” on her album “Don’t Cry Now” released in 1973.[6]

In 1985, Bell founded the label Wilbe and issued Passion, which was well received in the UK. "I Don't Want to Wake Up Feeling Guilty", a duet with Janice Bullock, reached the charts in the U.S.[2] In 1986, The single "Headline News" entered the UK Singles Chart.[7]

Homer Simpson sang Bell’s song “Born Under A Bad Sign” on the album “The Simpsons Sing The Blues,” released in 1990.[8] Jimi Hendrix covered “Born Under A Bad Sign.” His version appeared on the album “Blues” released posthumously in 1994.[9] Etta James covered Bell’s song “Born Under A Bad Sign” on her album “Life, Love, and the Blues” released in 1998.

Bell's recording career extended to 2006, when his LP, New Lease of Life, was released on his own Wilbe Records label.[2] The 2010 sci-fi thriller Repo Men featured Bell's 1967 "Every Day Will Be A Holiday" in an important scene where a famous singer was mixing this song, as well as in the soundtrack.

In 2012, Bell joined Sinead O'Connor, Mavis Staples, The Roots, TV on the Radio and others at a sold-out concert at Lincoln Center. The concert was a part of the month-long Lincoln Center Festival, and was a 70th birthday tribute to the late Curtis Mayfield.[10]

New Year's Eve 2014 into New Years Day 2015, Bell appeared on Jools Holland's Hootenanny, singing "Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday", "Happy", and "Private Number" as a duet with Joss Stone.

Bell's new album, "This Is Where I Live," will be released on Stax Records on June 3, 2016.[11]


In 1997 Bell was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.[12] The same year he received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's R&B Pioneer Award.[2] In 2004, Bell was inducted into Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame.[13]



Year Label & Cat No Title Peak chart positions
U.S. Hot 100 U.S. R&B UK Singles Chart[14]
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"[15]
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 e "Biography by Jason Ankeny". Allmusic.com. Retrieved July 5, 2009. 
  3. ^ Redding, Otis, "Otis! - The Definitive Otis Redding" Rhino (CD Box Set) 71439, 1993
  4. ^ "William Bell | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  5. ^ "William Bell". Discogs. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  6. ^ "Don't Cry Now - Linda Ronstadt | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  7. ^ Rice, Tim; Rice, Jonathan; Gambaccini, Paul (1990). "Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums". Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness World Records and Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-398-8. 
  8. ^ "The Simpsons Sing the Blues - The Simpsons | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  9. ^ "Blues | The Official Jimi Hendrix Site". Jimihendrix.com. Retrieved 2016-07-19. 
  10. ^ Hoekstra, Dave (July 12, 2012). "Curtis Mayfield to get Lincoln Center tribute". Chicago Sun Times. 
  11. ^ "Songs We Love: William Bell, 'The Three Of Me'". NPR.org. Retrieved March 24, 2016. 
  12. ^ "William Bell Biography". OLDIES.com. 1937-07-16. Retrieved 2016-07-19. 
  13. ^ "2004 Hall of Fame Inductees". cammy.org. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  14. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 55. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  15. ^ 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'."

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