Viola Wills - Essential Gold
Viola Wills' first major break into the mainstream came in 1979 with her hugely influential cover version of Milton Kellem's 1951 classic "Gonna Get Along Without You Now" which started a string of hits.
In 1982, her cover of "Stormy Weather" peaked at number 4 in the U.S.
Hugely popular with the LGBT community her music is still popular around the world.
These are 10 songs including the classic "Gonna Get Along Without You Now"
plus many others (tracklist below)1. Gonna Get Along Without You Now
2. Never Knew Love Like This Before (Extended Mix)
3. Stormy Weather
4. Where Do I Begin (Love Story)
5. Gonna Get Along Without You Now (Extended Mix)
6. If Walls Could Speak
7. Maybe This Time (NRG Mix)
8. I Knew You Were Waiting
9. Who I Am Is Who I Am
10. Love Transfusion
Viola Wills (December 30, 1939 – May 6, 2009) was an American pop singer, best known for the 1979 UK Singles Chart number 8 hit and US U.S. Hot Dance Club Play number 52 hit, "Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now". Other hits included further covers of the songs, "Both Sides Now" (number 35 UK) (1986), and "If You Could Read My Mind" (number 2 U.S. Hot Dance Club Play) (1980).
Born Viola Mae Wilkerson in the Watts district of South Los Angeles, Wills was married in her teens. She was the mother of six children before the age of 21. In 1965, she was discovered by Barry White who signed her to Bronco Records and renamed her with the shorter stage surname of Wills; from her first marriage name of Lyons. She started her career at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and, over the following years, in addition to working with White, also performed with Joe Cocker, Smokey Robinson and many other established recording artists of the era. It was while working in London as one of Cocker's backing vocalists (dubbed the "Sanctified Sisters") that she worked on and released her solo debut album of self-penned originals titled Soft Centres, backed by Cocker's session players.
Wills' first major break into the mainstream came in 1979 with her cover version of "Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now" (the song's release date was May 14, 1979) which started a string of dance hits. All three of the songs landed Wills in the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles. In 1982, her cover of "Stormy Weather" peaked at number 4 in the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart. Later in 1983, the newly formed record label RVA (Robert Viola Ashmun), released a number of songs, including "Wall", "Space" and "If These Walls Could Speak".
A demand for 1980s music brought Wills back to Europe Some of the UK venues Wills has appeared on, or at, were Top of The Pops (October 11, 1979), Pebble Mill, Soul Train (October 30, 1971 [Season 1, Episode 5] where she performed the song "Sweetback"), Later... with Jools Holland, Ronnie Scott's, Never Mind the Buzzcocks (February 17, 2003 [Season 12, Episode 7]) and a residency at Joogleberry Playhouse in Brighton. Here she was backed on occasion by Brighton based pianist Tom Phelan and jazz guitarist Shane Hill.
Although Wills did not have a mainstream U.S. hit, she was popular among the nation's gay community and her singles are popular in dance clubs and a number of her recordings are found in various compilations, including "No News Is News", "A House Is Not a Home", "If You Could Read My Mind", "Up On The Roof", "Somebody's Eyes", "Love Pains", "Let's Love Now", "Take One Step Forward" (by Wills and Noel McCalla), and "Always Something There to Remind Me". Her vocals also featured on My Friend Sam's 1992 house track "It's My Pleasure" which later appeared on the seminal Renaissance: The Mix Collection album.
PERSONAL LIFE AND DEATH
On February 21, 1982 in Hennepin County, Minnesota; she married Robert Chappell Ashmun. This was her second marriage. Later in 1983, the new husband and wife pair formed the record label RVA (Robert Viola Ashmun).
Wills died of cancer on May 6, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. Her funeral was held at the Macedonia Abbey Baptist Church in Los Angeles on May 15, 2009.
Viola left behind six children - Vincent, Christopher, Regina, Ladonna, David and Rejal, 21 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.