Slim Williams: Victorious!


Williams's second shot at fame
Photo: George Fok, Phi Montreal

Montreal Godfather of Funk Slim Williams' all-star comeback

How did a North Carolina kid who played organ in his father’s Baptist church at the age of 9 become Montreal’s Godfather of Funk?

Well, years working stages alongside the likes of The Spinners, The Drifters and The Temptations landed Slim Williams in Montreal where in 1986 his funk band (with Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir alumnus Kat Dyson), Tchukon, won the U.S. Star Search competition (for those under 25, Star Search was the precursor of American Idol).

But as quickly as things came together, they fell apart and Williams found himself battling a life-and-death drug addiction. "I got into cocaine, the drug everybody used," Williams told Hour this week. "I knew I had to stop. And I did. I stopped doing blow for 13 years. Then it came back in 2000 and that was hard. I was losing everything. I was looking at life or death. Do I want to live or do I want to die?"

Williams chose life and rehab, and the triumphant track Victorious – co-written by Williams, Dutch Robinson of the Ohio Players and keyboardist Joel Campbell (formerly with Tina Turner and Janet Jackson), from Williams’s new album Pulse of the Planet – is a testament to his determination to get back on top.

"I told them I needed this song to be about people overcoming hardship," says Williams, who with Oscar Peterson won a Gemini Award for best original musical score for the 1992 Oscar Peterson biopic In the Key of Oscar.

Pulse of the Planet boasts a who’s who of Montreal’s music scene – Kim Richardson, Nancy Martinez, Charles Papasoff, Tony Albino, Kat Dyson and Alan Prater, among others – and for my money the song I Want You to Myself is the best song to come out of Montreal this year.

But can Williams tap into urban markets in English Canada and the U.S., or does he have his sights set on the Quebec vedette system?

"I don’t want to put myself on a pedestal, but the intent of authors like Mozart and Beethoven was to reach utopia. My intent, along with my production team, is to reach a height of such high quality, with strong, positive lyrics, that the music will outlive us."

Slim Williams and band
w/ guests Daniel Lavoie, Dutch Robinson and Nancy Martinez
At Corona Theatre (2491 Notre-Dame W.), Dec. 6

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