Legendary O’Jays Bassist Jimmie Williams Passes

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

SICKLERVILLE – South Jersey native Jimmie Williams, the longtime bassist for the O’Jays and connected with some of R&B’s greatest hits, died Oct. 19.

The legendary musician, a native of Camden, is a member of the Philadelphia Walk of Fame and Nashville Musicians Hall of Fame. Williams was the recording and traveling bassist for the Mighty O’Jays for more than 40 years, retiring in 2018.

The O’Jays was one of the most influential Soul groups of all-time, being inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004 and the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

While Williams, who started his career as a vocalist, worked with some of the most iconic performers in the music industry, one of his contributions will always have profound meaning for many African Americans – McFadden and Whitehead’s 1979 hit “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.”

“During a 1979 recording session with McFadden and Whitehead, Williams shared a groove with fellow musicians which had been encouraged by a dance step seen on ‘Soul Train,'” said biographical information on Williams. “The musicians began to add layers to the groove and the session became an all out jam session.

“Once heard by McFadden and Whitehead who were late arriving to the session, they immediately began recording the groove and building what is now known as a 1979 No. 1 dance hit ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,'” the information said.

The song has been called the modern African American national anthem and has been theme for numerous Philadelphia and other sports teams around the country. The song not only hit No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts, but No. 13 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It also charted in Australia, Britain Canada and Ireland.

“His distinctive work on such hits as ‘Love TKO,’ ‘Forever Mine,’ and ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’ will continue to please fans for decades to come. But his presence will be missed. Rest in Peace, Mr. Williams,” said Chris Rizik, of the website Soul Tracks.

Jimmie Williams at induction into the Musicians Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Jimmie Williams family

Williams started his long musical career as a vocalist with a R&B group called the Italics; later performing with the Ebonys a popular group that brought the soulful sound of Philadelphia to a nation.

Williams became interested in the bass guitar after a meeting with Kenny Gamble and the Romeos bassist Winnie Wilford. Williams was later introduced to studio musicians based at Philadelphia’s Sigmac Sound Studios known as MFSB, or for Mother Father Sister Brother.

That led him to interviews with singers, songwriters and back to producer Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Williams quickly recorded “Close The Door” and “Get Up Get Down Get Funky Get Loose” for the legendary Teddy Pendergrass.

Williams performed to iconic performers like Robert Palmer, Grace Jones, The Four Tops, Lou Rawls, the Salsoul Orchestra, Edgar Winter, Curtis Mayfield, and Gloria Gainer. He has traveled with Billy Paul, Pattie La Belle, The Jones Girls and Sister Sledge.

But it was his relationship with the O’Jays that lasted more than four decades, where Williams’ distinct bass can be heard in hits like “Forever Mine, “My Favorite Person,” “Cry Together,” “Your Body’s Here With Me.”

In 2016, he was inducted in the Hard Rock Nashville Rock and Roll musicians Hall of Fame for his contribution in modernizing the Philly Internationals bass sound.

Decorated R&B bassist Jimmie Williams. Photo courtesy of Jimmie Williams family

Williams leaves behind his wife Stephanie Williams, and five children to carry his legacy —  Lavinia, Joccola, Jermaine, Tina and Remey. He also leaves a host of loving family and friends.

The family said Williams lived by the motto: “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”

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