The midwestern singer, who has died aged 82, worked with everyone from Berry Gordy to thrash punks – and arguably invented rap music
Andre Williams died in Chicago on Sunday aged 82 after being diagnosed with colon cancer two weeks earlier. To most people, his name will be unfamiliar, but to me he was one of the great heroes of American music.
Born in Bessemer, Alabama, Zephire “Andre” Williams escaped rural poverty for the bright lights of Detroit around 1950. Motor City was booming and Williams, aware he lacked a voice but determined to succeed as a vocalist, created a sing-speak style mixing humour and innuendo with the ruling R&B and doo-wop musical styles of the time. Some have pointed to this vocal delivery being one of the starting points for rap music.