Thursday, September 22, 2011
Williams' hits included "Sweet Sweet Love," "Once Bitten Twice Shy" and the 1989 smash, "Congratulations," a tale of heartbreak over a love marrying someone else that she later described as "a premonition that came true". The song, with its vocal acrobatics and dramatic story, became a talent show staple.
Though no official cause of death had been determined, John Kades of the L.A. County coroner's office told the Associated Press that it "could be a drug overdose," as there is a report that bottles of prescription pills were found in the hotel room, and that the authorities are treating the singer's death as an accidental overdose or suicide. According to various news sources, someone from the hotel called 911 from the hotel earlier in the evening when the singer’s body was discovered. Law enforcement is currently treating the case as a suicide or accidental overdose. It will take six weeks before a coroner can determine if drugs played a role in Williams’ death. An autopsy will be conducted, though foul play was not suspected.
Word of the singer’s death has been making the rounds on Twitter as fellow celebrities send out their condolences.
Jackeé Harry, the television actress, tweeted her condolences about the singer's passing.
"...just received truly devastating news: R&B great, and my friend of many yrs, Vesta Williams (@vesta4u), has passed away. #RIPVesta"
Williams portrayed Harry's sister on the sitcom, "Sister, Sister." She also appeared in the movie western "Posse" as a lounge singer.
Other celebrities that expressed their condolences include model/fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons. She tweeted,
“What tremendous talent, great soul! 'Cuz as long as I can breathe, you’ll always be the one for me!’”
1990s R&B star Shanice was shocked by the news and tweeted,
“My friend Vesta died…I can’t believe this…RIP.”
Comedian Sinbad wrote, “Our dear sister and one of the sangiest diva’s ever, vesta williams, has passed away. I loved that sister.”
In the 1990s, Williams made headlines for her dramatic weight loss. She told Ebony that she started to rapidly gain weight when her singing career began to falter. Williams, who was 5-foot-3, eventually reached a size 26. She said her size was the reason she lost her recording contract.
"When I lost my record deal and my phone wasn't ringing, I realized that I had to reassess who Vesta was and figure out what was going wrong," she said. "I knew it wasn't my singing ability. So it had to be that I was expendable because I didn't have the right look."
The singer went on to lose 100 lbs, and got down to a size 6, while finding something of a second career as a songwriter and session singer.
In recent years, Williams had become an advocate for the prevention of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.
In late December 2011, the family released this statement, through a family friend singer/producer Norwood Young, reporting her official cause of death: "Following three months of intensive coroner's autopsy and toxicology research, it has been definitively determined that the cause of death for our beloved Vesta was 'natural death' from 'hypertensive heart disease,'" adding: "An enlarged heart can remain undetected for many years."
Vesta Williams was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) on October 4th, 2011 following the memorial service at West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, California. Attendees included notable friends Wanda Dee, singer Peggi Blu, Freda Payne, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, Kellita Smith, Norwood Young, Michael Collier (author), Miki Howard, Karel Bouley, Kiki Shepard, Jackee’, Luenell and renowned Blues singer, Linda Hopkins. A private reception was held following the interment.
She is survived by her mother, daughter, three sisters, a brother and three grandchildren as well as many cousins, friends and fans.