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In a distinguished career as a singer, songwriter, and producer, WILLIAM BELL has come to define the essence of "soul." Born in Memphis but based in Atlanta since 1970, Bell was one of the pioneers of the classic Stax/Volt sound, joining such other illustrious musical forces at that label as Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MGs, Albert King, Eddie Floyd, Carla and Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, and the Bar-Kays, among others.
William Bell recorded his first sides as a member of the group the Del Rios. In 1961, he made his solo recording debut with the classic single, "You Don't Miss Your Water," which became one of the fledgling label's first major hits.
After a two-year stint in the Armed Forces, Bell released his first full-length album in 1967, the classic The Soul of a Bell, which included the Top 20 hit single, "Everybody Loves a Winner." That same year, blues great Albert King recorded what came to be his signature tune, "Born Under a Bad Sign," also written by Bell, which has since become one of the most-recorded blues songs.
Among his other classic hits at Stax were "Any Other Way," "Never Like This Before," "A Tribute to a King" (Bell's personal tribute to Stax legend Otis Redding), "I Forgot to Be Your Lover," his internationally acclaimed duet with Judy Clay, "Private Number," and the perennial Christmas music favorite, "Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday."
In 1970, Bell moved to Atlanta and struck pay dirt in 1977 with "Tryin' to Love Two" on Mercury Records, which topped the R&B charts and eventually spent more than six months there.
As a songwriter, Bell's compositions have also been recorded by such diverse stars as Otis Redding, Eric Clapton, Billy Idol, Lou Rawls, and Rod Stewart, among many others.
In 1985, William Bell launched Wilbe Records in Atlanta and issued the album Passion, which produced three chart singles in the U.S. and was a major hit in the U.K. "I Don't Want to Wake Up Feeling Guilty," a duet with Janice Bullock from that album, stayed on the American charts for close to nine months. A song from that album, "Headline News," was released as a single in England and was later voted one of the top ten records in 1987 by the readers of Blues & Soul magazine in the UK.
In addition to releasing more of his own albums in the late '80s and early '90s, Bell began to produce and develop other artists for his Wilbe label, which is nationally distributed by Rock Bottom Distribution. After 1992, he took a break from recording, but continued to perform around the world. Some of his performing highlights during that period included the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in 1995 and three memorable nights during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta that saw him paired with such fellow Memphis legends as Rufus Thomas and Ann Peebles.
1997 turned out to be a very rewarding year for William, as he reaped accolades from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, winning their R&B Pioneer Award; and the State of Georgia, which inducted him into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame by then-governor Zell Miller.
In 2000, he returned to the recording studio and released A Portrait Is Forever, an album of all original songs, on his Wilbe label.
Other awards he's received over the last few years include the prestigious W.C. Handy Heritage Award in 2003; that same year, he received the BMI Songwriter's Award for his tune, "Put That Woman First," recorded by Jaheim. In 2004, he received the Joe Pope Pioneer Award, presented at the Beach Music Awards. In addition, Wilbe Records was voted "Record Label of the Year" in 2004 at the Southern Konnection Radio and DJ Conference. Bell is also a member of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and featured prominently in the Stax Museum.
After an absence of over five years, Bell released a brand new studio album in the spring of 2006, New Lease on Life, whose title track is already riding high on the southern soul charts. New Lease on Life is packed with the kind of classic songs and grooves that fans of William Bell have come to expect. In addition to "New Lease on Life," other standout songs in an album full of highlights include the testifying "Playaz Only Love You (When They're Playing)," the soulful duet with Jeff Floyd on "Part Time Lover (Full Time Friend)," the tender ballad of "My Body Don't Know," the tropical dance rhythm of "Got An Island Feeling," the dance floor-pleasing "Treat Her Right (Like a Lady)," the gospel-influenced "Save Us," and the down-home groove of "Every Sunday Morning."
Bell also continues to produce and develop a number of new artists on his Wilbe label, such as Jeff Floyd, Lola, Fred Bolton, Hardaway Connection, and Rahn Anthony, many of whom have new CDs scheduled for release.