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Marion Williams (August 29, 1927 – July 2, 1994) was an American gospel singer.

Early years

She was born in Miamimarker, to a religiously devout mother and musically inclined father. She left school when she was nine years old to support the family. She worked as a maid and a nurse and in factories and laundries. Even then, she was singing before audiences. As was common in the area, Williams was exposed to African American blues and jazz, alongside Caribbean calypso. Poverty caused Williams to leave school at fourteen, working with her mother at a laundry. She was singing at church and on street corners, inspired by a wide range of musicians including Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Smith Jubilee Singers. She stuck with gospel, however, in spite of pressure to switch to popular blues tunes or the opera.

In 1946, while visiting her sister in Philadelphia, she happened to sing before an audience that included Clara Ward and Gertrude Ward. They recognized her talent and offered her a job. A year later, she became a part of the famous Ward Singers. Her growling, hands-on-the-hips vocal style made her the group's undisputed star.

In 1958, she and other members of the Ward group formed the Stars of Faith. In 1965, began her solo career. For the next 15 years she toured the United States, Africa and the West Indies.

Musical career

The Ward Singers

Williams was invited to join the Ward Singers when they heard her singing during a visit to a close friend in Philadelphiamarker in 1946. Williams did so in 1947, staying with them for eleven years. Her first recording with the group was "How Far Am I from Canaan" (1948), followed by the breakthrough "Surely God Is Able", which launched Williams and the rest of the group into superstardom. Their concerts were mobbed by frenzied fans.

Stars of Faith

Dissatisfied with the low pay she was receiving while starring for the group, Williams left the Ward Singers in 1958, followed by most of the rest of the group, to form the Stars of Faith. The Stars of Faith was unable, however, to reproduce the success the Ward Singers had enjoyed, as Williams retreated from the spotlight to give other members of the group more opportunity to star. The group's career recovered, however, in 1961, when it appeared in Black Nativity, an off-Broadway production, and toured across North America and Europe.

Solo career

In 1965, Williams began a solo career but soon returned to Miami for her mother's funeral. While there, she felt reinspired to continue her career and began touring college campuses across the country. Her perhaps best-known hit is from this period -- Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go.



Can't Keep It To Myself Shanachie Entertainment Corp. 1993
1 Got On My Traveling Shoes 3:01
2 Ain't He Good 2:45
3 God's Amazing Grace 5:48
4 Come Out The Corner 2:46
5 Leave You In The Hands Of The Lord 3:06
6 Ride In The Clouds 3:04
7 Press On (Like The Bible Said) 2:18
8 The New Gospel Train 2:24
9 Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen 3:37
10 I'll Never Return No More 1:51
11 Hark The Voice 3:21
12 Packin' Up 3:35
13 Live The Life I Sing About In My Song 3:35
14 I Heard The Voice 2:40
15 I'm So Glad 2:33
16 I Have A Friend 3:38
17 O Lord Remember Me 2:55
18 Were You There When They Crucified My Lord 2:42
19 Loose The Man 2:27
20 Lazarus 2:48
21 Mary Mary 2:41
22 I Just Can' t Keep It To Myself 3:47

Notable singles


Music videos

Film appearances

In 1991, she performed as a gospel singer in the film Fried Green Tomatoes, though her scene is available only in the director's cut. The movie was dedicated to her.

Television appearances

Hootenanny, a musical variety television show. Performed Packin' Up and I've Got To Live The Life I Sing About In My Song as Marion Williams and Stars of Faith.

Other video appearances


Awards Wins

Award Nominations


A powerful singer with a preternaturally broad range, able to reach the highest registers of the soprano range without losing either purity or volume, she could also swoop down to growling low notes in the style of a country preacher.


Williams' singing helped make The Ward Singers nationally popular when they began recording in 1948, and also inspired Rock 'n' Roll pioneer Little Richard's signature wail.

Honors and awards

She was honored by the MacArthur Foundation in 1993. According to the Kennedy Center, the Foundation said she was among "the last surviving links to gospel's golden of the most versatile singers of her generation."

Personal life

An esteemed Member and Church Mother at the BM Oakley Memorial Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia, PA under the pastorate of the late Mother Irene A. Oakley.

External links

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