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|Birth name||William Edward DeVaughn Jr.|
November 28, 1947 |
Washington, D.C., United States
Mighty Two Diamond Records
William Edward DeVaughn Jr. (born November 28, 1947, in Washington, D.C.) is an American R&B/soul singer, songwriter and guitarist, best known for the million-selling hit song "Be Thankful for What You Got" in 1974.
DeVaughn was a salaried government employee as a drafting technician, and a part-time singer. He wrote a song called "A Cadillac Don't Come Easy", which was eventually re-written to become "Be Thankful for What You Got", in 1972. He spent $900 towards getting it recorded with Omega Sound, a Philadelphia production house. The record's producer at Omega, John Davis (a member of the MFSB studio session group), came up with a smooth arrangement, eventually booking time to record at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, used by Philadelphia International Records. Studio owner and chief engineer Joe Tarsia recorded and mixed the track.
The session featured members of the MFSB group — guitarists Norman Harris and Bobby Eli, drummer Earl Young, vibraphonist Vince Montana and percussionist Larry Washington; secured by Allan Felder, who also developed the separate ad-lib back-up chorus with his sister's vocal group. John Davis played keyboards on the track. Frank Fioravanti, the executive producer and co-ordinator, secured the song's release on Roxbury Records, a subsidiary of Chelsea Records, run by industry veteran Wes Farrell.
The record sold nearly two million copies on its release in spring 1974, reaching #1 on the US Billboard R&B chart and #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track saw two chart entries in the UK, with the record peaking at #31 (1974) and also #44 (1980), in the UK Singles Chart. It was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA on May 31, 1974. With a sound and content influenced by Curtis Mayfield, its simple and encouraging lyrics hit home, to the extent that it became featured on gospel radio stations. When his success as a recording artist seemed guaranteed, DeVaughn quit his government job.
DeVaughn released an album, mainly of songs with a religious character, and its second single, "Blood Is Thicker than Water", reached #10 R&B and #43 pop later in 1974; "Give the Little Man a Great Big Hand" had only minor R&B chart success early the following year. Live, DeVaughn preached to and admonished his audience from the stage. He lost interest in the music industry not long afterwards, working in a record store and again as a draftsman.
Fioravanti gave DeVaughn's 1980 effort, named after a new song by DeVaughn, Figures Can't Calculate to TEC Records in Philadelphia. The title song climbed to #37 in the Billboard R&B chart and a remake of "Be Thankful for What You Got" was also included on the album. Soon after, DeVaughn recorded a Fioravanti tune, "Creme de Creme", released in Europe on the Red Bus label and on Excaliber in the UK.
In 2004, DeVaughn released a new single, "I Came Back", on his own Mighty Two Diamond Records. In 2014, two previously unreleased tracks, "Staying Power" and "Love Ballad of the Year", were included in the Sound Gems Records oldies compilation Lost Soul Gems. They were written by Fioravanti and others.
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- Drafting technician: Nathan, citing an unspecified 1974 issue of the British magazine Blues & Soul. Singer: Nathan, citing an unspecified 1980 interview in Blues and Soul.
- Chart positions and sales figure: Nathan.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 152. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 344. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Nathan, David. Notes for William DeVaughn: Be Thankful for What You Got: A Golden Classics Edition. Collectables [sic] CD COL-5271. Collectables [sic] Record Corp., 1994.