Dubbed “Mr. Rhythm” and “The Godfather of Rap,” Williams died after a battle with colon cancer
R&B singer and producer Andre Williams has died, his record label Pravda Records confirmed. He was 82. In a statement, the label said he died on Sunday, March 17 in Chicago. “He touched our lives and the lives of countless others,” it reads. Williams’ manager revealed to Billboard that the singer was diagnosed with colon cancer two weeks ago and passed away while in hospice care.
Zephire “Andre” Williams was born and raised in Bessember, Alabama before moving to Detroit in the 1950s in pursuit of a music career. Still a teenager, he became involved with R&B-focused label Fortune Records. He sang for the 5 Dollars group and released solo singles like “Greasy Chicken” and “Jail Bait,” which became some of his greatest hits. The 1957 song “Bacon Fat” showcased the sing-talk style that earned Williams the “Godfather of Rap” nickname. He was also billed as “Mr. Rhythm” during his run with Fortune.
In the 1960s, Williams began working with Motown, which included co-writing Stevie Wonder’s “Thank You For Loving Me,” working with the Temptations, and producing for various groups like the Contours. During this time, he released his hits “Cadillac Jack,” “The Stroke,” and “Humpin’ Bumpin’ & Thumpin’.” Williams would go on to record with Parliament, Ike & Tina Turner (who famously performed Williams’ “Shake a Tail Feather”), the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and others, as well as releasing his own studio records like 1998’s Gories-featuring Silk and 2000’s The Black Godfather. Williams last release, Don’t Ever Give Up, arrived in 2016.