Kenneth “Ken” Williams, who wrote or co-wrote more than 500 songs including the classic 1972 hit “Everybody Plays the Fool” recorded by The Main Ingredient with lead vocals by Cuba Gooding Sr., died June 17 following a long non-Covid illness at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY. He was 83.
His death was announced by his wife, the Broadway actress and singer Mary Seymour Williams.
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Although most widely known for “Everybody Plays the Fool,” the classic R&B song he co-wrote with Rudy Clark and J.R. Bailey, Williams was a prolific songwriter, record producer, arranger and singer for the past 60 years. Among his songs are “Love, Love, Love” (recorded by Donny Hathaway), “I Can’t See Me Without You” (The Impalas), “Let Me Prove My Love to You” (The Main Ingredient), “Only When You’re Lonely” (Holly Maxwell), “Seven Lonely Nights” (The Four Tops), “Keep on Holding On” (Margaret Reynolds), “Hoping You Will Come Back” (Sandra Phillips) and more. His songs span genres including blues, jazz, and classical to dance, R&B, country and pop.
Williams was born on January 13, 1939 in Fernandina Beach, FL, joined the Air Force after high school and, while stationed in Great Falls, MT, formed a group called The Chuck A Lucks. He moved to New York City in 1959 and began writing for a local publishing company.
In 1968, Williams founded A Dish-A-Tunes LLC Publishing, a family owned and operated music company. During the last five decades Williams added over 500 songs to his music catalog. In 2004, A Dish-A-Tunes received a Grammy Award for the song “You Don’t Know My Name” recorded by Alicia Keys and produced by Kayne West.
With its immediately recognizable spoken-word introduction by lead singer Gooding (“Ok, so your heart’s broken…”), “Everybody Plays the Fool” was the first single released from The Main Ingredients’ album Bitter Sweet, and became the group’s highest-charting single, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1972. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and at No. 25 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart.
Gooding, the father of actor Cuba Gooding Jr., died in 2017. Aaron Neville also recorded a version of the song in 1991, reaching the Top 10 on the Hot 100.
In addition to his wife (who appeared on Broadway in the original Hair and 1973’s Raisin), Williams is survived by sister Dorothy Jones; godsister Olivia Goldsmith; children Kenny Williams Jr, Kevin D. Williams, Kalvin Williams, Cheryl Nicholson; stepson Kenny J. Seymour; and other extended family.
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