R&B Legend Vesta Williams, perhaps best-known for her 1980s hits “Don’t Blow A Good Thing” and “Congratulations,” has been found dead of a possible drug overdose in a Southern California hotel room, coroner’s investigators said Friday. She was 53.
Williams was found dead at 6:15 p.m. Thursday in an El Segundo hotel room, Los Angeles County coroner’s Capt. John Kades said.
An autopsy will determine the cause of death. A toxicology examination will take six weeks to be completed, Kades said.
Born Mary Vesta Williams on Dec. 1, 1957, to a radio disc jockey in Ohio, she had hits with “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” ”Sweet, Sweet Love” and the torch song “Congratulations,” a tale of heartbreak over a lover marrying someone else, that she later described to talk show host Mo’Nique as “a premonition that came true”.
Williams also appeared in movies and on television.
She was a saloon singer in the Mario Van Peebles movie “Posse” and she had a recurring role on the show “Sister, Sister,” playing actress Jackee Harry’s best friend Monica.
Actress Jackee Harry tweeted her condolences: “…just received truly devastating news: R&B great, and my friend of many yrs, Vesta Williams (@vesta4u), has passed away. #RIPVesta”
Word of Vesta’s death has been making the rounds on Twitter as fellow celebrities send out their condolences.
Model/fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons tweeted, “What tremendous talent, great soul! ‘Cuz as long as I can breathe, you’ll always be the one for me!’”
90’s R&B star Shanice Wilson was shocked by the news.
“My friend Vesta died…I can’t believe this…RIP,” she tweeted.
Comedian Sinbad wrote, “Our dear sister and one of the sangiest diva’s ever, vesta williams, has passed away. I loved that sister.”
Her initial success in the music industry came as a background singer for artists ranging from Chaka Khan, Anita Baker and Sting. But she would eventually establish her career with release of her first album, “Vesta,” in 1986.
Over the years, she had hits including “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” ”Sweet, Sweet Love” and her signature song “Congratulations.”
Williams continued to make albums, and was a regular performer on the concert circuit.
She was supposed to perform at the 21st annual “DIVAS Simply Singing!” in Los Angeles next month, put on by her friend and fellow entertainer actress Sheryl Lee Ralph Ralph. The Oct. 22 show will now pay tribute to her and another late soul singer, Teena Marie.
Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph: “She was really excited about doing divas,” Sheryl Lee Ralph said, adding Williams was also scheduled to be the subject of a TVOne “Unsung” episode.
At 5-foot-3, Vesta Williams gained weight in the 1990s, ballooning to a size 26. She went on a dramatic weight loss program, losing 100 pounds and getting down to a size 6.
She later told Ebony magazine that she began gaining weight rapidly after her singing career started to falter. She blamed her size for loss of her recording contract.
“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,” she said. “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.”
She went on to become an advocate for the prevention of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.
Last year, she released a song on iTunes.
“She had just become such a brand new person,” Sheryl Lee Ralph said. “This is very hard, this is very hard.”
Ralph says Williams is survived by an adult daughter.