Williams to receive Lifetime award

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 28, 2009

One of gospel music’s most distinctive voices is being honoredSaturday at the 2009 Southwest Mississippi Gospel Music Awards.

Melvin Williams, of Smithdale, will receive the Ella HendersonLifetime Achievement Award at the special event held at GratefulMinistries on First Street.

Although Williams has earned six Grammy nominations and a hostof Stellar and Dove awards with The Williams Brothers, he saidSaturday’s lifetime achievement award holds a place in his heartnext to the more recognized national awards.

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“I rank them right up there together,” he said. “It means a lotfor people in the community you grew up in to recognize what you’vecontributed to the music … and it’s a great honor. I wouldn’tmiss it for the world. I’m appreciative and grateful for thatrecognition.”

Williams said he is looking forward to performing at the gospelawards.

“It’s been a few years since we sang in the McComb or Brookhavenarea,” he said.

The Williams Brothers did, however, recently sing in Jackson atthe late Mayor Frank Melton’s funeral service.

He is also excited about singing with The True Believers again.The True Believers were given their first breakthrough by TheWilliams Brothers’ Blackberry Records, but have since changedlabels.

“I’m not sure of the last time we’ve played together. It’s beena minute,” Williams said.

Williams was born in Smithdale on July 21, 1953. Singing sincethe age of 6, Williams and his younger siblings imitated theirolder brothers of the famed gospel quartet, The JacksonSouthernnaires.

In 1960, his father Leon “Pop” Williams organized the youngersiblings to form the The Williams Brothers. Whether traveling bystation wagon or 15-passenger van, his father kept the boys on theroad visiting every church that would allow them to minister insong.

In 1973, Melvin Williams and his brothers recorded “Holding On,”their first album.

“We’ve been rolling ever since,” he said.

Williams has been writing and arranging most of his own musicsince 1979. As a songwriter, his music has reaped honors on severalof gospel’s favorite artists. Multi-Stellar award winner LeeWilliams recorded “Cooling Water,” Ollie Woodson of the Temptationsrecorded “True Love,” and “Living Testimony” was recorded by theMighty Clouds of Joy.

In 1988, his first solo album, “Back to the Cross,” garnered hisfirst Stellar Award and first Grammy Award nomination as a soloartist. Three years later, in 1991, Williams and his brothersstarted their own label, Blackberry Records – the first blackindependent record label to receive major distribution inMississippi. The first release on the label, “This is Your Night,”was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best SoulGospel Album and won a Stellar Award for Best Performance Group orDuo.

In 1992, Melvin released his sophomore solo album, “In LivingColor,” which became a major success when spurred by the single “SoGood.”

In 1997, the song titled “Too Close,” featuring Stevie Wonder,remained on the Billboard gospel charts for more than 12 months.”Never Seen Your Face” in 1998 reached single digit positions onBillboard’s Gospel Charts and received Stellar and Dove Awards.

Williams’ duet with gospel great Lee Williams on “Cooling Water”in 2001 burned up the Billboard charts for more than 100 weeks andremains one of the most popular requested songs by audiencesnationwide. In 2004, the album “Still Here” won three StellarAwards and the sixth Grammy Award nomination for The WilliamsBrothers.

Williams latest solo album, “The Journey Continues,” wasreleased in early 2009 and features Grammy winner KirkFranklin.

Before “The Journey Continues,” Williams did something unusualin the music business when he released “Crazy Like Love” and “LoveLike Crazy” simultaneously in 2007.

Williams has hopes his latest release, “The Best of MelvinWilliams,” will have similar success when it hits stores in June.The album also includes the debut of two bonus tracks.

“When I’m not with the brothers, I’m a little more free to dosome crossovers, like Top 40 stuff, but they’re ones that couldstill be sung in church,” he said.

His solo albums are still primarily gospel music, but include asmattering of songs about love and relationships.

“I think God built the world around love and relationships, so Idon’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Williams said.