*In a heartwarming outpouring of love and admiration, family, friends, fans and Los Angeles’ entertainment community came forth in adoring force to say goodbye to all-around entertainer Vesta Williams. The beloved singer/songwriter/comedienne/actress/radio personality was feted with a home-going celebration fit for a queen at Williams’ home church, West Angeles Church of God in Christ.
The skies were dark with rain clouds when the 11:00AM service began but by its conclusion at 12:30PM, the sun came shining through. In between, a fond farewell was bid to Williams with a touching cross section of loved ones. Resolutions from elected officials came from U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, CA State Assemblyman Mike Davis, and City of Los Angeles Councilman Bernard C. Parks.
After a joyous selection sung by the West Angeles Cathedral Singers, three special friends shared deeply touching reflections. Songwriter Tena Clark touchingly shared her story of Vesta boldly championing her – a woman – as the only one who could produce the song they had just co-written, “Congratulations,” and how Williams’ belief in her gifts resulted in the turning point of Clark’s career. Record executive Jesus Garber who was VP of R&B Music at A&M Records while Williams was signed to the company recalled Williams’ unflinching dedication to her fans and how “Congratulations” had the longest chart run of any song at Black radio in 1988. And Iris Perkins, her longtime manager and close confidante, reminded all that above and beyond her acclaim as an entertainer, she was a wonderful mother, daughter, sister and grandmother. Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. provided the profound closing Message of Comfort.
And then there was the music. Jesse Campbell sang an amazing a cappella rendering of “Amazing Grace” filled with hair-raising emotive twists that brought the house to its feet. Later Bridgette Bryant, in possession of a heavenly soprano, sang an elegantly modulated version of “His Eye is On The Sparrow” that also received a standing ovation yet was less a performance than a transfixing channeling of what Williams surely wanted all gathered to understand about where her spirit faithfully resides – now and forever. However, Ms. Vesta Williams herself had the last musical word via a video of her joyously wailing – in that very church – the welcoming number, “I’m So Glad You’re Here.”
As one guest stated of the bravura performance in an exclamation the funny lady would appreciate, “Leave it to Vesta to turn out her own funeral!”
Another attendee concluded, “It was a day of remembrance, sadness, some heartfelt laughter and wonderful musical tributes as many came to say goodbye to Vesta Williams.”
Vesta Williams is survived by her daughter – Tandia White, her mother – Joan W. Tate, her sisters – Margaret Wilson, Martaé Collins and Marlena Robinson, and her grandchildren – Taya McNeil, Alexia McNeil and Brendon White.
Celebrity attendees included:
Singers Miki Howard, Freda Payne, Shanice and Sy Smith, actresses Loretta Devine, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jackée Harry and Anna Maria Horsford, director Bill Duke, jazz musicians Lee Ritenour, Harvey Mason and Nathan East (of the super group Fourplay), singer/guitarist Tony Maiden of Rufus, singer/guitarist Sheldon Reynolds (formerly of Earth, Wind & Fire), EURweb’s Lee Bailey and Steven Ivory, BET Networks executive Robi Reed, music publisher Brenda Andrews, and many others.
Photo credit: Earl Gipson