Loving Music Helps Walter Williams Move His Life Forward
Walter Has Chose World MS Day 2010 To Reveal He is Part of the Global MS Movement and Has Been Living And Working With MS For More Than 25 Years
The term "living legend" is often overused, but with Walter Williams, founding member of The O'Jays, there can be little argument that the honorable tag truly applies and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. A pioneer of the 70’s soul music, Walter and The O’Jays produced 18 hit albums and 52 hit singles, 12 of which reached number 1 on the major music charts.
Just some of the classic numbers that live on are “Love Train,” “Lovin’ You,” “I Love Music,” “Use Ta Be my Girl,” “Back Stabbers,” “Let Me Make Love To You,” “Just Another Lonely Night,” “Don’t Take Your Love Away,” “Heart Breaker,” Imagination,” and “For the Love of Money,” which became the theme song of the reality show The Apprentice.
Walter Williams, Sr., born August 25, 1943, is the baritone/bass multi-range vocalist of the R&B /pop/vocal group The O’Jays and Walter, with his childhood friend Eddie Levert, has led The O’Jays for more than 50 years. The pair began singing on a gospel radio show in their hometown of Canton, Ohio in 1958. Joined by three additional friends – William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles -- the group transitioned through several names the “Triumphs” and “The Mascots” until in 1969, they took on the name “The O’Jays,” which stuck as they embarked on their successful recording and touring career.
While on tour in 1983, Walter began experiencing numbness in his legs and torso. After two months and visits with several doctors, Walter was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). "When they first told me I had MS it frightened me. I didn't know what to expect,” reports Walter. “I was really down for the first 3-4 weeks then I got angry and decided I was going to fight back.” Added Walter, “Though at the time there weren’t any treatments available, I was determined not to let this disease slow me down. I stayed active and continued to do what I loved - perform with the O'Jays."
However, Walter experienced a severe episode of MS in 1999 and decided to speak with his doctor about treatment options. By then, several disease modifying therapies for MS had been developed and Walter began treatment with AVONEX (interferon beta 1-a), which for him has worked well, keeping him relapse free.
Walter continues to tour the world with The O’Jays, who in 2004, recorded their latest album, “Imagination,” under the Music World label In addition, he has begun to pursue other artistic opportunities. He has embarked on an acting career and will begin writing a book in the near future. In 2003, Walter appeared in the movie “The Fighting Temptations” and recorded the duet “He Still Loves Me” with Beyonce Knowles as part of the movie’s soundtrack. In 2009 the group was awarded BET’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
In the fall of 2009, Walter completed his debut solo CD, “Walter Williams: Exposed,” due to be released in the summer of 2010. Walter is currently busy in the studio working on his next major project -- the much anticipated release of the latest O’Jays CD.
“When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know what MS was so I didn’t know what to expect,” said Walter. “However, now I know my MS pretty well and even though it can be a very unpredictable disease, I think my continued success in life and in my career is thanks to having a positive attitude and taking advantage of treatments currently available to manage the disease.”
While looking back over what he’s accomplished in the last half century and forward to what he plans to accomplish in the next half century, Walter decided it was time to share his story about a full but challenging life with MS. And what better time to do that is when those impacted by multiple sclerosis are united in the support of World MS Day. According to Walter, "I decided to tell my story to help others who are living with MS and let them know that there is hope. I encourage anyone who has been diagnosed with MS to seek treatment as early as possible and talk to their doctors about what treatment might work best for them."
Walter is also speaking out as a volunteer National Ambassador for the Society and as a spokesperson for MS Active Source.
- Nominated four times for a Grammy Award, last time being at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards; "Love Train"-1973; "For the Love of Money" - 1974 and Use Ta Be My Girl" - 1978;
- Nominated four times for an American Music Award;
- Won an American Music Award in 1990 for "Best Duo" and "Best Group";
- NAACP Award for "Outstanding Vocal Group" in 1991;
- Soul of America Award in 1993;
- Award for "Lifetime Commitment to the Community for service and beautiful sounds that continue to change the face of music" from 100 Black Men, October 20, 2001;
- Award for "Supporting the UNCF", given to The O'Jays at the 18th Annual Mayors Ball in Atlanta, Georgia (United Negro College Fund Mask Award)(12/15/01);
- Soul Train 2002 Quincy Jones Award for "Outstanding Career Achievement in the field of Entertainment";
- 2003 Wall of Fame Honor in Canton, Ohio;
- 2003 State of Ohio - for Outstanding Achievements; 2003 Mayors Citation from the City of Canton, Ohio; 2003 Honorary Sheriff conferred on The O'Jays by The city of New Orleans;
- 2004 Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pennsylvania;
- 2005 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio; and,
- 2009 Black Entertainment Television Lifetime Achievement Award.