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 80)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresR&B, soul
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals
Years active1957–present
LabelsStax Records, Wilbe Records
Associated actsThe Del Rios
Websitehttp://www.williambell.com/

William Bell (born William Yarbrough; July 16, 1939) 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.

In 2017, Bell was awarded a Grammy for Best Americana Album for his record This Is Where I Live Now. He performed his hit “Born Under a Bad Sign” alongside Gary Clark Jr. at the 2017 Grammy Awards. Bell was also featured on Rolling Stone's “Best of the Grammys” for that year.

His music has been sampled by artists such as Kanye West, Ludacris, and Jaheim.[1]

Career[edit]

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.

Bell sang in church as a child and considered himself a student of The Soul Stirrers, the popular gospel group lead by Sam Cooke. At age ten, he began songwriting with the original composition, “Alone On A Rainy Night”. At the age of 14, Bell won a talent contest and began making a name for himself singing in Memphis area clubs. [3]

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] a teenage vocal group that caught the eye of Stax Records.[3]

William Bell was an early signing on Stax Records initially as a songwriter.[4] Other notable Stax Records artists include Otis Redding,[5] Sam and Dave,[6] Isaac Hayes,[7] and The Staple Singers.[8]

Bell was the first male solo act to be signed to Stax Records and he was able to release several singles before joining the military. He continued to record singles while on break from deployment, including the song “Marching Off to War”.[1]

It was only after Bell finished his stint in the military that he was finally able to release his debut album,[9] 1967's The Soul of a Bell, on Stax Records.[10] Bell's Top 20 single "Everybody Loves a Winner" was on this album.[11]

William Bell was a close friend of fellow Stax recording artist, Otis Redding. Bell was supposed to be on the same tragic 1967 flight that led to Redding's death. “It started snowing so bad in Chicago, the promoter up there canceled my show,” recalls Bell. The tragedy led to a collaboration between Bell and Booker T. Jones (of Booker T. & the M.G.'s) who Bell knew from high school and church. Bell and Jones released “A Tribute to a King” in honor of Redding and it quickly became a hit.[12]

In 1967, Bell co-wrote an unintended Christmas hit, “Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday”. The song remains one of Bell's most recorded hits and serves as a classic R&B Christmas song.[13] In 2017, Hot Press Magazine named the hit the “Greatest Christmas record of all time”.[14]

Bell moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1969 and started up Peachtree Record Company, his short-lived soul label.[15][16]

During his time in Atlanta, he took acting lessons and played Stanley Kowalski in a production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Bell later signed a two-year deal with Mercury Records where he released the 1977 single “Trying To Love Two” which hit No.1 on the R&B charts, No. 10 on the pop charts, and sold a million copies.[17]

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,'[18] 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.[19] Additionally, William was one of the final performances at BB King's Blues Club in NYC before it closed in the spring of 2018.[20]

Recent activity[edit]

Bell was featured in the 2014 documentary film Take Me to the River that explored the heart of the enduring Memphis music scene. He was featured alongside other artists including Bobby Bland, Mavis Staples, and Snoop Dogg.[21]Bell is currently involved in the sequel to the popular documentary, and he calls it “a powerful little film”.[12]

In 2016, Bell recorded This Is Where I Live, his first major label album in over 30 years.[22] Bell was awarded a Grammy for ‘Best Americana Album’ in 2017, which, in turn, had such a strong effect on his streaming data that Rolling Stone called him “the biggest winner of the night”.[23]

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.[24]

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.

Bell spent time in 2017 and 2018 touring with a group of featured artists from “Take Me to the River”. The touring group was named one of the “10 Bands to See This Year” by Parade Magazine.[25]

In 2017, Bell performed twice on NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts. He performed with his own band and again with the touring Take Me to the River group.[1]

Bell Released the single “In a Moment of Weakness” in 2018 as part of the Amazon Original “Produced By” series. His song was produced by the Grammy Award-winning Matt Ross-Spang.[1]

Bell performed at the Mempho Music Festival in Memphis, TN on October 6, 2018 as part of a tribute set dedicated to Royal Studios.[26]

In 2019, Bell collaborated with Southern Avenue on their single “We’ve Got the Music”.[27]

Bell performed at the 2019 Blues Music Awards where he was nominated for Best Soul Blues Male Artist.[28]

Covered by[edit]

Awards and Honors[edit]

Notable Performances[edit]

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

Year Label & Cat No Title Peak chart positions
U.S. Hot 100 U.S. R&B UK Singles Chart[50]
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"[51]
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')"

Albums[edit]

  • 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

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "About". William Bell.
  2. ^ a b c d Jason Ankeny (July 16, 1939). "William Bell | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Bernstein, Jonathan (June 2, 2016). "William Bell On Making The Ballads That Made Him". Brooklyn Magazine.
  4. ^ "Artists". Stax Records. Archived from the original on November 21, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  5. ^ "Otis Redding". Stax Records. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  6. ^ "Sam & Dave". Stax Records. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  7. ^ "Isaac Hayes". Stax Records. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  8. ^ "The Staple Singers". Stax Records. December 19, 2000. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  9. ^ Murray, Noel. "William Bell: The Soul Of A Bell · Permanent Records". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  10. ^ "William Bell on Apple Music". Itunes.apple.com. July 16, 1939. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  11. ^ "William Bell - The Soul Of A Bell (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs.com. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  12. ^ a b c d e Bream, Jon (August 13, 2018). "At 79, William Bell proves to be consummate soul man at the Dakota in Minneapolis". Star Tribune. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  13. ^ "Soul man William Bell rides Grammy-winning comeback into Minneapolis and Duluth". Star Tribune.
  14. ^ Carty, Pat. "The Greatest Christmas Record Of Them All?". Hot Press.
  15. ^ "The Peachtree Record Company Story". Rate Your Music. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  16. ^ "William Bell Discography". Discogs.com. July 16, 1939. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  17. ^ "The Soul Of William Bell". Vinyl Me Please. March 23, 2018.
  18. ^ a b Carr, Courtney. "William Bell Wins Best Americana Album at 2017 Grammy Awards". The Boot.
  19. ^ "Prom 65: Stax Records: 50 Years of Soul". BBC Music Events.
  20. ^ "William Bell at B.B. Kings (A Gallery)". Relix Media. April 23, 2018.
  21. ^ Nash, J. D. (August 19, 2016). "Memphis Music Documentary, 'Take Me to the River,' Now On Netflix".
  22. ^ Bell, William (March 24, 2016). "Songs We Love: William Bell, 'The Three Of Me' : The Record". Npr.org. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  23. ^ Johnston, Christopher R. Weingarten,Hank Shteamer,Brittany Spanos,Suzy Exposito,Maura; Stone, Rolling (February 13, 2017). "Grammys 2017: 20 Best and Worst Moments".
  24. ^ Zusel, Yvonne (December 3, 2015). "William Bell and the persistence of soul power". Myajc.com. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  25. ^ Whitmore, Laura B. (December 27, 2017). "Musical New Year's Resolutions: 10 Bands to See This Year". Parade.
  26. ^ a b "Mempho Music Festival Announces Daily Lineup". Business Wire. Memphis, Tenn. June 15, 2018. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  27. ^ "News". William Bell.
  28. ^ a b c McKay, Robin. "BLUES MUSIC AWARDS".
  29. ^ Linda Ronstadt. "LINDA RONSTADT - Don't Cry Now". Amazon.com. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  30. ^ a b "Homer Simpson - Born Under A Bad Sign". YouTube. September 18, 2010. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  31. ^ "Blues | The Official Jimi Hendrix Site". Jimihendrix.com. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  32. ^ "Born Under a Bad Sign: Jimi Hendrix: MP3 Downloads". Amazon.com. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  33. ^ "Photographic image of "Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday" record label" (JPG). Streamd.hitparade/ch. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  34. ^ "William Bell - Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday / Ain't Got No Girl (Vinyl)". Discogs.com. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  35. ^ Twenty at AllMusic
  36. ^ "Melissa Etheridge - MEmphis Rock and Soul". Blues Magazine. October 8, 2016. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  37. ^ "W.C. Handy | Memphis Music Hall of Fame". memphismusichalloffame.com.
  38. ^ "2003 BMI Urban Awards: Photos". BMI.com. August 5, 2003.
  39. ^ Allgood, Tomeka (March 3, 2017). "Stax Museum Is Dedicated To Telling The Story of American Soul Music".
  40. ^ "Americana Music Association Announces Lifetime Achievement Honorees | AmericanaMusic.org". americanamusic.org.
  41. ^ "Memphis Music Hall of Fame announces 2016 inductees". The Commercial Appeal.
  42. ^ "'David Porter & Friends' Event to Honor William Bell with 2017 Epitome of Soul Award on November 11 at Horseshoe Tunica". October 11, 2017.
  43. ^ "Smithsonian Folklife Festival to Feature Program on Rhythm and Blues | Newsdesk". Newsdesk.si.edu. June 20, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  44. ^ "STAX! The Memphis Sound". Memphissymphony.org. October 13, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  45. ^ infomisa (August 25, 2013), William Bell Performs "You Don't Miss Your Water" at In Performance at the White House, retrieved February 18, 2017
  46. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 11, 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  47. ^ Kreps, Daniel (October 18, 2015). "Watch Justin Timberlake's Memphis Music Hall of Fame Induction". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  48. ^ Light, Alan (June 1, 2016). "William Bell, a Stax Records Team Player, Upholds and Extends" – via NYTimes.com.
  49. ^ Johnston, Christopher R. Weingarten,Hank Shteamer,Brittany Spanos,Suzy Exposito,Maura; Weingarten, Christopher R.; Shteamer, Hank; Spanos, Brittany; Exposito, Suzy; Johnston, Maura (February 13, 2017). "Grammys 2017: 20 Best and Worst Moments".
  50. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 55. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  51. ^ 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]