Lenny Williams

Daddy B. Nice's #44 ranked Southern Soul Artist



Portrait of Lenny Williams by Daddy B. Nice
 



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"Can't Nobody Do Me Like You"

Lenny Williams

Composed by Lionel Holman, Charles Leonard & Lenny Williams


Lenny Williams is one of that lost generation of soul singers headlined by the late Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis and Little Milton, and peopled with such largely unknown performers as Latimore, Willie Clayton and Charles Wilson, who got their start in the late sixties or early seventies, just when traditional R&B lost favor amid a deluge of popular music genres including new jazz, light rock, disco, reggae and contemporary country.

Under the radar until the late 90's, when a small coterie of Southern Soul and blues fans rediscovered them via chitlin' circuit venues and Deep South radio stations, these largely-forgotten artists became the big fish in Southern Soul's small pond of resurgent R&B.

Even among the unappreciated stars cited, Williams was a lesser light, known primarily for his piercing tenor on the early-70's horn band singles of Tower Of Power. The allure of musicianship and enhanced arrangements that the best of these bands--Chicago Transit Authority, which morphed into Chicago, and the Oakland-based Tower Of Power--purveyed allowed them to shine in the upper regions of the Billboard charts for a brief period.

Lenny Williams returned to a solo career in the late 70's, recording at least one song of such stature it became his indelible musical signature. The song was "Cause I Love You," and even the audience who never paid much attention to the particulars of the song or its singer heard the spectacular ballad from time to time on urban radio over the years, highlighted by its over-the-top, emotionally-spoken monologue and its rousing chorus, in which Williams repeated the phrase "Oh!-Oh-Oh-Oh-Ohhh" with the fierce tenacity of a killer plunging a knife repeatedly into his victim's mid-section. That the intent of the phrase was an expression of love made the emotional impact even greater, prompting many fans to call it the best old-school love song ever.

Less well-known is that Lenny Williams' voluminous recording career continues today outside the mainstream public's eye, in the cafes, juke joints, barber shops and hair salons of the chitlin' circuit. Williams' 21st-century persona is devoid of the brilliant sentimental excesses of "Cause I Love You," featuring a more modest, seasoned and frequently skeptical approach to life more in keeping with a mature, "grown-folks" perspective.

But the jewel of William's latter-day career is a romantic yet gritty love song Southern Soul enthusiasts cherish more dearly than any other tune in the Williams catalog, including "Cause I Love You." The song is "Can't Nobody Do Me Like You."

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "Can't Nobody Do Me Like You" on YouTube while you read.

A fine band accompanied by a majestic brass section previews the melody in the opening bars as Lenny begins:

"It's been a year and a half
Since you left me, babe. And
Girl, I've been trying to find
Another lady like you.

And I must confess that
I've had a few loves,
But nothing--none of them--
Not a single one will do.

'Cause they don't have your flavor.
Sure don't have your personality.
And after a few weeks
Of going out together,

It just gets boring,
It seems so boring,
So boring to me, because--

Can't nobody love me like you.
Can't nobody do me like you do.
Can't nobody love me like you do, babe.

Can't hold me,
Can't squeeze me,
Can't love me like you do."

"Can't Nobody Do Me Like You" debuted on Williams' My Way on the Thump label in 2004 and was reprised on Williams' 2007 CD, It Must Be Love, on the LenTom label.

Even less understood among today's fans is Lenny Williams' subtle influence on current Southern Soul stars, who have used him for imitation and inspiration in selecting their own material, usually without any recognition of the source on the part of the Southern Soul audience.

For instance, Lenny Williams recorded "(I Like)Your Sister" in 2000 on his Love Therapy album, which found him transitioning into Southern Soul. Mel Waiters redid the same song as "I Like Your Sister" on his 2006, Throwback Days CD and scored a moderate chitlin' circuit hit with it.

And Lenny Williams recorded "Amen," a song overtly critical of wayward preachers (a hitherto forbidden subject in the Deep South's Bible Belt) on his It Must Be Love CD in 2007. Subsequently, younger-generation star Vick Allen recorded "Forbidden Love Affair (The Preacher Song) in 2009 on his Truth Be Told CD and it became a noteworthy Southern Soul single.

Lenny Williams has really come into his own as a Southern Soul artist--the latest phase of his long career--in just the last five years with two CD's that have spawned a number of radio-friendly, chitlin-circuit singles. The first, 2007's It Must Be Love, scored solid Southern Soul singles with the atmospheric "I Be Missing You" and "Somebody Else" in addition to "Amen" and "Can't Nobody Do Me Like You." The second, 2009's Unfinished Business, introduced two durable, chitlin-circuit-oriented singles in "Cheatin' On The Cheatin'" and "Sorry (I Didn't Know It Was Your Mama)" along with the less impactful "Six In The Morning" and "Amnesia" and a reprised "Somebody Else."

"Cheatin' On The Cheatin'" delves head-first into one of Southern Soul's prime subjects, right down to the lover's hidden tattoo that only the hero was supposed to know about. ("If we were married, I'd divorce you.")

Similarly, "Sorry (I Didn't Know It Was Your Mama)" regales the listener with mock-apologetic lyrics memorializing a "freaky mama" adept in all the things young girls do.

"I'm just a man.
I couldn't resist.
I never thought
It would turn out like this.

Didn't know it was your mama.
She looked so young.
She kept on showing me
That ring in her tongue.

I'm sorry,
Didn't know it was your Mama."

And. . .

"Yes, I did your mama,
But she also did me.
I don't mean no disrespect.
But look at this hicky
Your mama put on my neck."

If the low-key, lowdown "Cheatin' On The Cheatin" and "Sorry (Didn't Know It Was Your Mama" find Lenny Williams 180 degrees from the hyper-emotive flamboyance of his mega-hit from yesteryear, "Cause I Love You," his "Can't Nobody Do Me Like You" inhabits the middle ground between the two extremes.

In Williams' pre-eminent Southern Soul ballad the romantic verve of youth meets the world-weary wisdom of maturity. In fusing the best of both eras, Lenny Williams takes his career to its highest peak, even higher than "Cause I Love You." "Can't Nobody Do Me Like You" is the quintessence of Southern Soul. It's top-shelf, right up there with the very best the genre has to offer.

--Daddy B. Nice


About Lenny Williams

Lenny Williams was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on February 6, 1945. His family moved to Oakland, California in his teens and he recorded his first single at the age of 24 for Fantasy Records. Soon after, he signed with Atlantic Records and recorded a version of "People Make The World Go Round" that was overshadowed by the Stylistic's rendition and subsequent hit.

in 1972 Williams joined the soul/funk horn band Tower of Power as its lead singer, fronting the group for three years during its creative peak, lending his distinctive, piercing tenor to hits like "What Is Hip?," "So Very Hard To Go," "Don't Change Horses" and "This Time It's Real." Three Warner Brothers-released CD's featured his lead vocals: Tower Of Power, Back To Oakland and Urban Renewal.

Williams recorded the solo albums Pray For The Lion (1974) and Rise Sleeping Beauty for Warner Brothers before leaving for Motown Records in 1975, but his solo career didn't take off until he signed with ABC Records in 1977 and released the albums Choosing You (1977) and Spark Of Love (1978).

Three more albums--Love Current, Let's Do It Today and Taking Chances--were published by MCA, which bought out ABC in 1979. Among the major singles Williams recorded during this period were "Cause I Love You," "Shoo Doo FuFu Ooh", "Choosing You," "You Got Me Running," "Love Hurt Me Love Healed Me" and "Midnight Girl."

Williams' recorded in spurts with indie labels over the next dozen years while also pursuing real estate investments. Then, as Southern Soul music began to grow in popularity around the turn of the century, Williams began to tailor music for the genre.

Love Therapy (2000) and My Way (2004) were key CD's in Williams' transformation into a contemporary Southern Soul star, the latter disc featuring his new signature ballad, "Can't Nobody Do Me Like You."

It Must Be Love (2007) and Unfinished Business (2010), published on his own indie label LenTom, targeted the Southern Soul audience even more specifically ("Cheatin' On The Cheatin'," "Somebody Else," "Sorry (Didn't Know It Was Your Mama)," "Amen" and "I Be Missing You"), and a new single, "Still," was climbing the Southern Soul charts in 2012, at the time of this writing.


Song's Transcendent Moment

"I pray each night
You'll have mercy, girl,
And you'll come running
Straight back to me.

Until then I'll be
Waiting and watching,
And I'm not ashamed
To say it, girl. . .

. . .I'd rather be
All by myself
Until once again
You'll be mine."


Tidbits

1.

April 21, 2012:

Here are some of Lenny Williams' best offerings on YouTube:

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "Can't Nobody Do Me Like You" on YouTube.

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "Cause I Love You" on YouTube.

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "Sorry (I Didn't Know It Was Your Mama)" on YouTube.

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "Somebody Else" on YouTube.

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "Cheatin' On The Cheatin'" on YouTube.

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "Six In The Morning" on YouTube.

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "Soul Vaccination" Live With Tower Of Power on YouTube.

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "So Very Hard To Go" with Tower Of Power on YouTube.

2.

April 22, 2012:

Many Southern Soul fans are aware of the record J. Blackfoot cut with Sir Charles Jones entitled "I'm Just A Fool For You." However, that recording was actually a remake of the original track, which Blackfoot recorded with Lenny Williams on his It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over CD.

Listen to Lenny Williams singing "I'm Just A Fool" with J. Blackfoot on YouTube.

Sample or Buy J. Blackfoot's "I'm Just A Fool For You" MP3 featuring Lenny Williams on I-Tunes.


If You Liked. . . You'll Love

If you liked Glenn Jones' "Baby Come Home," you'll love Lenny Williams' "Can't Nobody Do Me Like You."


Honorary "B" Side

"Cause I Love You"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Can't Nobody Do Me Like You by Lenny  Williams
Can't Nobody Do Me Like You


CD: It Must Be Love
Label: LenTom

Sample or Buy
It Must Be Love


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Cause I Love You by Lenny  Williams
Cause I Love You


CD: Spark Of Love
Label: ABC

Sample or Buy
Spark Of Love


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Amen by Lenny  Williams
Amen


CD: It Must Be Love
Label: LenTom

Sample or Buy
It Must Be Love


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy So Very Hard To Go (w/ Tower Of Power) by Lenny  Williams
So Very Hard To Go (w/ Tower Of Power)


CD: Tower Of Power
Label: Warner Bros.

Sample or Buy
Tower Of Power


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Somebody Else by Lenny  Williams
Somebody Else


CD: It Must Be Love
Label: LenTom

Sample or Buy
It Must Be Love


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Amnesia by Lenny  Williams
Amnesia


CD: Unfinished Business
Label: LenTom

Sample or Buy
Unfinished Business


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Cheatin' On The Cheatin' by Lenny  Williams
Cheatin' On The Cheatin'


CD: Unfinished Business
Label: LenTom

Sample or Buy
Unfinished Business


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy I Be Missing You by Lenny  Williams
I Be Missing You


CD: It Must Be Love
Label: LenTom

Sample or Buy
It Must Be Love


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Shoo Doo Fu Fu Ooh!     by Lenny  Williams
Shoo Doo Fu Fu Ooh!


CD: Ultimate Collection
Label: ABC

Sample or Buy
Ultimate Collection


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Sorry (Didn't Know It Was Your Mama) by Lenny  Williams
Sorry (Didn't Know It Was Your Mama)


CD: Unfinished Business
Label: LenTom

Sample or Buy
Unfinished Business


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Your Sister by Lenny  Williams
Your Sister


CD: Love Therapy

Sample or Buy
Love Therapy


2 Stars 2 Stars 
Sample or Buy One Word by Lenny  Williams
One Word


CD: My Way
Label: Thump

Sample or Buy
My Way


2 Stars 2 Stars 
Sample or Buy Six In The Morning by Lenny  Williams
Six In The Morning


CD: Unfinished Business
Label: LenTom

Sample or Buy
Unfinished Business


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