Can we please have a moment of silence for veteran soul songbird Vesta Williams, who was found dead in a hotel room in Los Angeles on Sept. 22. The cause of death is still not known, however, investigators did find multiple bottles of prescription pills near the scene. An autopsy is being performed and it will take at least six weeks for toxicology reports to be completed. She was 53.
"R.I.P. Ms. Vesta Williams. What a tremendous talent + great soul! Cuz as long as I can breathe, you'll always be the one for me!" tweeted Vesta's friend Kimora Lee Simmons. Funnyman Sinbad also commented on Twitter saying, "Our dead sister and one of the sangiest divas ever, Vesta Williams, has passed away. I loved that sister."
At 5-foot-3, Vesta was a small woman with a gigantic soulful voice. The Ohio native spent the early part of her career as a background singer for such artists as Chaka Khan, Anita Baker and Gladys Knight before establishing her own career with her first album, Vesta, in 1986. The collection featured her first Top 10 R&B hit "Once Bitten, Twice Shy." She followed that release with her 1988 album Vesta 4 U, which garnered three Top 10 R&B hits, "Sweet Sweet Love," "4 U" and "Congratulations." Vesta's third album Special was modestly successful with the title track becoming a chart-topping hit, reaching No. 2 on the R&B charts.
In 1990s, Vesta's career began to falter and she gained an enormous amount of weight. Once morbidly obese, the singer made headlines for her dramatic weight loss. She blamed the music industry and bad business decisions for her out-of-control eating habits. "This is a very visual era," the singer told Ebony magazine in 1996. "When I lost my record deal and my phone wasn't ringing, I realized that I had to reassess who Vesta was and figure out what was going wrong. I knew it wasn't my singing ability. So it had to be that I was expendable because I didn't have the right look."
Vesta was scheduled to perform at Sheryl Lee Ralph's 21st annual "DIVAS Simply Singing!" concert in Los Angeles next month. The Oct. 22 show will now pay tribute to her and another late soul singer, Teena Marie. "She was really excited about doing divas," said Ralph who was Vesta's confidant and friend. "She had just become such a brand new person. This is very hard, this is very hard."
Vesta -- "Congratulations" (Live)