R.I.P. Andre Williams: 10 Essential Tracks From the Soul Great


Andre Williams spent half a century deconstructing American music -- and to listen to him inform it, fame was the very last thing on his thoughts. “I've lived like a king, and I've lived like a bum, and I've lived like a tramp,” he told the Village Voice in 2010. “I simply care about saying it like I noticed it.”

What he noticed was the attractive grime of day by day life. In a raucous profession that spanned 5 prolific a long time, Williams invoked American music of all stripes -- solely to spit Bacardi in its face and grin with cigarette-stained tooth. He had a penchant for three-piece fits and a Biblically randy method with phrases. As ex-publicist Marah Eakin put it in 2010, he was a blur of “fits and cologne and songs.”

He deemed himself “Mr. Rhythm” -- and the world is much less colourful with out his raunchy grooves. Williams handed away Sunday (Mar. 17) of colon most cancers after receiving hospice care, as confirmed by his supervisor and musical director. He was 82.

As an idiosyncratic Detroit soul singer within the 1950s, he launched himself to the world with dance-instructional odes to fried meals: “Bacon Fat,” “The Greasy Chicken.” “Jail Bait” was a stern warning to a toddler predator. Despite regional success, none of those have been acquired with open arms by the general public.

One music would minimize by. “Shake a Tail Feather,” a 1963 co-write between Williams, Verlie Rice and Otha Hayes, turned an R&B smash. Originally a No. 51 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for The Five-Dutones, the music ultimately acquired covers from The Romantics, Tommy James and the Shondells and Ike & Tina Turner, amongst many others. The Monkees sang it of their 1969 TV particular, 33 1/three Revolutions Per Monkee; ditto Ray Charles within the 1980 traditional The Blues Brothers

For the remainder of his profession, Williams mixed soul, R&B, nation, rock and spoken-word to messy, thrilling ends. Off-kilter gems like 1999’s Red Dirt and 2012’s Hoods and Shades put him alongside rock’s nice tinkerers: Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart. And his mealy-mouthed spoken-word supply earned him the title of “Godfather of Rap.”

And he plowed by dependancy and sickness to maintain this artwork alive till the day he died. “I believe I've to [attribute] my survival to his Most High,” he told the Red Bull Music Academy. “He determined to depart me right here to endure.” 

In honor of the life and legacy of Andre Williams, listed below are 10 important cuts from his physique of labor.

“Bacon Fat” (Bacon Fat, 1956)

In his debut single for Fortune Records, Williams takes a hike all the way down to Tennessee, the place cotton-pickers and rail-riders are “glad to see me.” It seems they've a brand new dance transfer referred to as the Bacon Fat within the Volunteer State -- and Williams’ backing singers reply with an unctuous whomp, whomp, whomp. Williams’ disaffected, atonal spoken-word practically invents Lou Reed; the sound is quintessential Southern soul.

“The Greasy Chicken” (Jail Bait, 1957)

Williams’ second dance music is even greasier than the primary. It begins with a flurry of rooster noises. The band is seemingly locked in first gear. Williams ratchets up the silliness, calling out the title from world wide in faux languages and foolish accents. Williams’ Spanglish could not have aged nicely, however this obscure soul gem nonetheless has us doing the title dance.

“Jail Bait” (Jail Bait, 1957)

Bawdy humor was the secret with Williams -- and he was naturally expert at skirting the sting of fine style with out falling off it. “Jail Bait” has Williams admonishing a salacious Casanova to not pursue underage ladies: “A fast elimination/ That’ll take you out of circulation,” he warns. This material could have come off extra lightheartedly in 1957 than it does in 2019 -- however that lumbering, slogging Detroit rhythm is timeless.

“Cadillac Jack” (single, 1968)

Come the 1960s, Williams headed for Chicago and upgraded to Checker Records (a subsidiary of Chess), the place he minimize his tooth as a producer and minimize his personal 45s. “Cadillac Jack,” recorded for the label, ups the manufacturing finances and the lascivious humor each. “He thought he had it made,” drawls Williams over movie-style strings. “Until he began foolin’ round with one other fella’s maid.” It’s solely the start of Jack’s issues.

“Humpin’, Bumpin’ and Thumpin” (single, 1968)

Williams’ grooveology solely grew deeper whereas on Checker. “Humpin’, Bumpin’ and Thumpin’,” a triple-entendre about hitting the dancefloor and having carnal data, incorporates his most sordid, swinging rhythm thus far; his more and more slurred supply is a harbinger of his anarchic 1990s work. If you don’t not less than faucet your foot to this one, there should not be blood in your physique.

“Pardon Me (I’ve Got Someone to Kill)” (Red Dirt, 1999)

After spending the 1980s out of music due to homelessness, poverty and drug dependancy, Williams unexpectedly discovered a younger, various viewers within the 1990s and started recording for In the Red and Bloodshot Records. Red Dirt, a full-on costume turn into Western put on, is stuffed with uproarious nation drama: the homicidal “Pardon Me (I’ve Got Someone to Kill)” confirmed he may grasp in open prairies and ghost cities.

“Whatcha Gonna Do” (Black Godfather, 2000)

Recorded for storage rock mainstays In The Red Records, Black Godfather amps up Williams’ edgiest features. Its spotlight, “Whatcha Gonna Do” combines all of them: Electric Prunes-style drones, horror-punk blasts, Williams howling like Ralph Wolf from Looney Tunes about physique components. Most younger storage rockers can solely dream of creating a racket like this.

“Can You Deal With It?” (Can You Deal With It?, 2008)

Williams turned much more himself within the 2000s: by the point of Can You Deal With It?, he was cramming New Orleans soul, Steppenwolf yowls and Motörhead-style riffs into an completely unique stew. He’s nonetheless ruminating on the unholy phrase “booty” and ideating the imprint in a lady’s gown -- however when set to absurd, Neanderthal music that might Andrew W.Okay. proud, the title monitor comes off as blustery, harmless goofiness.

“Dirt” (from Hoods and Shades, 2012)

By 2012, Williams was virtually an elder-statesman of bizarre tradition: on the Hoods and Shades spotlight “Dirt,” he confronts the final enemy dying. Over a jaunty, country-blues backing, Williams moans like a reaper about how “regardless of how excessive we go,” we’re nothing however topsoil when the rubber lastly hits the highway. Sweet goals, youngsters!

“Shake a Tail Feather (Live)” (Choice Cuts: Best of Andre Williams, 2012)

The Williams music that belongs within the time capsule has nothing to do with dying or horniness or fried meals: it’s so infectious plethora of 1960s artists wished to strive it out. Williams being Williams, there’s a ribald story: “We’d go to dances and see ladies shaking their asses,” he helpfully explained in 2010. “And a rooster’s tail has a feather within the ass. So I modified it from “shake your ass, child” to “shake a tailfeather.” And it flew!”

Every model of “Shake a Tail Feather” has its personal danceable appeal, but it surely’s value listening to this customary from the horse’s mouth: it’s a swampy R&B treasure that might have been an early Beatles hit. We’ll miss the attractive, harebrained cult hero who began all of it.