Bio: Williams grew up in a household surrounded by musical influences from Broadway shows, before she attended Syracuse University to major in musical theatre. A mother and actress as well as singer, she has come a long way since becoming embroiled in a minor scandal over her appearance in Penthouse magazine (after becoming the first black woman to win the Miss America pageant). Four years later Williams began to pursue a recording contract, and found a sympathetic ear in Ed Eckstine at Wing Records (a Mercury Records subsidiary). Her husband, Ramon Hervey, took over her management. Williams’ talents have nevertheless been inadequately displayed on her albums. Her musical career began in 1989 with The Right Stuff, which provided a US number 8 single in ‘Dreamin’’, a song recognized by ASCAP as one of the most frequently played singles of 1989 (it also contained the minor hit ‘Darling I’). It brought her the NAACP Image Award, which she won once again for the US chart-topping ballad, ‘Save The Best For Last’. The album which accompanied that single, The Comfort Zone, achieved double platinum status. The following year Williams enjoyed a US Top 5 single duetting with Brian McKnight on ‘Love Is’, which was taken from the television series Beverly Hills, 90210.
There was more invention and ambition displayed on a third collection, The Sweetest Days, delayed for three years while she gave birth and raised her third child, Devin, and moved back to New York from Los Angeles. This featured vocals that were pleasant rather than striking, hovering over gentle jazz, soul or Latin arrangements. The stronger material, like the warm, sensuous ‘Higher Ground’, was deprived of its potential stature by disappointments like ‘Moonlight Over Paris’ or the joyless Sting cover, ‘Sister Moon’ (with Toots Thielemans on harmonica). Sting also produced, alongside other big names like Babyface and Roy Ayers. Wendy Waldman, Jon Lind, Phil Galdston and producer Keith Thomas, the team responsible for ‘Save The Best For Last’, wrote the title track. The album was released while Williams was also the toast of Broadway in her role in Kiss Of The Spiderwoman. She has also appeared widely in film and television, including the Emmy Award winning Motown Returns To The Apollo, The Boy Who Loved Christmas and Stompin’ At The Savoy. Earlier she had starred alongside Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in Another You and Micky Rourke and Don Johnson in Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man. She has also hosted her own contemporary R&B television show, The Soul Of VH-1. In January 1996, Williams sung the national anthem at Super Bowl XXX in Phoenix, Arizona. Later in the year she released the seasonal collection, Star Bright, which was followed in 1997 by Next. Her film career in the late 90s included roles in Eraser, Dance With Me, Light It Up, and in 2000 she appeared in the remake of Shaft.
Vanessa Williams "Sleigh Ride"
Learn more about this artist's Christmas hits by clicking on the song titles below.