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Vesta Williams, singer of '80s R&B hits, dies at age 53

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Vesta Williams
David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images

Vesta Williams, the voice behind such ’80s R&B staples as “Congratulations” and “Sweet, Sweet Love,” has passed away. According to E!, she was found in a hotel room in Los Angeles. She was 53 years old.

“R.I.P. Ms. Vesta Williams,” friend Kimora Lee Simmons tweeted. “What a tremendous talent + great soul! Cuz as long as I can breathe, you’ll always be the one for me!”

Williams was born in Ohio, but made her way out to Los Angeles to find work as a musician. She spent the early part of her career doing session work with the likes of Chaka Khan and Gladys Knight before scoring a recording contract of her own. That led to the release of her 1986 debut album Vesta, which netted her a minor hit with “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.”

She followed that up with 1988’s Vesta 4 U. Her most successful release, it became a staple of contemporary R&B radio and gained Williams her biggest mainstream exposure.

The peak of Williams’ career ended with 1991’s Special, though she was still making albums — her last release came out in 2007 — and performing (this video shows her singing “Congratulations” at a jazz festival just four days ago). She will be remembered as having a unique voice that managed to be much larger than her diminutive stature.

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