Our Conversation with The Incomparable, Lenny Williams
The test of a true artist is not only their ability to create and adapt but to also stay relevant throughout the changing times. A true artist is able to evolve and grow while the lesser ones fade into obscurity. True artists have a talent for not falling victim to trends or whatever happens to be popular at the moment. Any real artist’s dream should be to be remembered fondly for their creative contributions even long after they’ve gone. Soul Man, Lenny Williams has been making music since the 1970s, signing to legendary Motown Records. Newer readers might remember the song “Overnight Celebrity” with Twista and Kanye West, it sampled Lenny’s classic song “Because I Love You.” The original song was also featured in Kings of Comedy. Lenny recently sat down with Parlé Magazine to discuss his music career, his new single and thoughts on the today’s music business.
Parlé Magazine: Can you tell our younger readers a little something about yourself?
Lenny Williams: I was born in Little Rock, AK. I moved to Oakland, California when I was very young. Music has always been a part of my life growing up which is what I’m sure many people say, but some of my earliest memories were of me and music, either listening to it or singing. In 1972, I was a part of the funk band Tower of Power, we were also signed to Motown during that time. By 1975, I started working on solo projects, which is what I’ve been doing ever since. I’ve had many hit songs that people may remember but most notably, “Because I Love You.” Recently I’ve shared the stage with Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Usher, Frankie Beverly and Maze and so many others. It’s been a mix of old school and new school talent that I have been fortunate enough to work with.
Parlé: What was it like working with Motown during the height of it’s era?
Lenny Williams: It was amazing; I was making music with my friends and having a good time. I was able to meet and work with such acts as Carlos Santana, Sly Stone, BB King, Chaka Khan and many others. It was a blessing to be there during that time period because I was able to learn so much from such great people.
Parlé: Tell us about your new single “Rock Me Baby”?
Lenny Williams: I’ve been making music a long time. I stepped away briefly when I became a family man but I never stopped making and creating music. I felt it was only right to finally get back out there with this new song. I recorded the song and put it out there. It started gaining popularity and I was able to go on the Blues Tour.
Parlé: Are there plans to release an album yet?
Lenny Williams: It’ll be exciting. I’m on the road so much right now that it’s all still in the works so I don’t have an exact release date for you yet but those who know me and know my work I can guarantee the fans won’t be disappointed. There’ll be some blues, R&B, southern soul and just a little something for everyone.
Parlé: How have you been able to maintain relevancy in an ever changing music business?
Lenny Williams: You can’t be afraid to get in there and mix it up. Don’t isolate yourself. I’ve kept my eyes and ears open to what’s been going on around me musically so I’ve always been able to adapt with new ideas and sounds.
Parlé: How have the fans been treating you?
Lenny Williams: Great! I’ve been able to see the love they’ve shown me at my shows, online and with record sales. I always try to give back to them when I can to show them that I appreciate the support.
Parlé: What separates your music from what’s out there today?
Lenny Lenny: I’m not afraid to experiment creatively. A lot of artists get stuck with one style or doing something one particular way that they’ll paint themselves into a corner (creatively). The fact that I’ve been at this so long also helps.
Parlé: Being from the old school, how do you feel about artists using social media to promote and distribute their products?
Lenny Williams: It’s progress and technology, there are so many ways to look at it. On one hand, it opens the flood gates so any and everyone can do it. On the other hand, you can also look at it in the negative as well. It all depends on how you look at it. Even when I was making music years ago before all this, we had one hit wonders and people who weren’t that good making music as well so that doesn’t change in some sense. If anything, those who are really talented will stand out amongst the mediocre.
Parlé: Is there anyone you’d like to work with nowadays?
Lenny Williams: R. Kelly and Kanye West, those two are both extremely talented. Both have used works of mine in their music so I feel like it would be a nice fit to officially collaborate.
Parlé: Other than music, are you working on anything else?
Lenny Williams: I am currently involved in three nonprofits. The first being Lazrex Cancer Foundation helping to promote awareness and help people get screened. Keep Music Rocking Foundation helps keep music in our schools and the Mathen Foundation is to help the young ones stay away from drugs and gangs.
Parlé: Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life?
Lenny Williams: My wife and my children have inspired me to create so much throughout the years. Life in general, but God has always been at the front blessing me with talent and the ability to create. Sam Cooke was my greatest inspiration musically.
Parlé: Do you have any advice to the readers and fans?
Lenny Williams: No matter what it is, perfect your craft as an artist. Be patient as well, a lot of things will take time to happen and anything good is worth the wait. I will also say, any artist or really anyone in general before you sign anything or commit to anything, always get a legal advice.
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