Although Vesta Williams never had a Gold album or a Top 40 hit on the Billboard 100 chart, she was one of the most versatile and unique American singers of all time. With her four-octave vocal range and stunning beauty, Williams was a star in her own right.
Born Marie Vesta Williams on Dec. 1, 1957, in Coshocton, Ohio, Williams' disc jockey father introduced Vesta and her sisters to music at an early age. She got her start in show business when her family moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s. Williams and her sisters Margaret, Marte and Marlena appeared on the television show Jack and Jill as "The Williams Sisters.”
After working as a back up singer for Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Anita Baker and other singers, Williams was given the opportunity to sing on the original version of the song “Survivor,” which ultimately led to her record deal with A&M Records. Williams released her first album, Vesta, in 1986, which spawned the hits “Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and "Sweet Sweet Love."
In 1989, she released her hit song "Congratulations."
She dabbled in acting again in the 90s, staring as a saloon singer in the 1993 film Posse. Her recording career dwindled, and as a result she gained a lot of weight, eventually reaching a size 26.
By 2002, she had lost 100 pounds and was down to a size 6, and was working as a Dallas, Texas radio host and song and session writer.
Williams was found dead in her California Hotel room on Sept. 22, 2011. She died in her sleep. The Williams family revealed autopsy results, which indicated that she died of complications from an enlarged heart.
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(Photo: Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)