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5 Sep 2008

Unforgettable People (XXXII): Ray Williams



Ray Williams was born in 1947, in London, England. During the 1960s, Williams worked with Cathy McGowan, who presented "Ready Steady Go". He was also a press agent for a number major artists such as Sonny & Cher, Cream, Robert Stigwood, and for Brian Epstein's Saville Theatre. He eventually moved up to head the A&R department for Liberty Records, where he signed upcoming artists who went on to achieve major successes with Jeff Lynne (Idle race and ELO), The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Mike Batt, among others.

By this time Williams’ reputation for discovering major talent was gaining credence. In 1967, he discovered Elton John and introduced him to Bernie Taupin. "He had something in his voice. He certainly didn't have any writing ability at that time. But he had a great voice, even then. It had great warmth, character and appeal. It was one of those great recording voices" explained in a 1992 interview with John F. Higgins when he remembers his first meeting with Reg Dwight. "Bernie said, basically, "I'm a poet and I think that my words might be suitable as lyrics if set to music." There were dozens of people sending in lyrics. Most of them were "moon in June" and that sort of stuff. But there was some sort of imagination attached to Bernie's. They weren't just the norm, even though we couldn't understand all of them. I think that it was this (imagination) that made me think that I should put him in touch with Elton... that he was the one. You know, it could easily have gone no further. But there were these lyrics and I wrote Bernie back saying I'd pass them on and that sort of thing. And that's how it all started".

Williams managed Elton for his first five albums. He also launched and managed Stealers Wheel (Gerry Rafferty) and The Blues Band.

Since 1984, Williams has been one of Europe’s leading film and television music producers. His impressive credits include Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" (1988), which collected the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Grammy and the L.A. film critics’ award for best score and "The Sheltering Sky" (1990), which won the Golden Globe and L.A. film critics’ award.

The year 1996 brought more success as Williams produced the soundtrack for Lars Von Triers' "Breaking The Waves", a critically acclaimed film and winner of the Grand Prix Award at Cannes and an Academy Award nomination in Hollywood.

From 1997 to 2002, Williams went on to produce and supervise several soundtracks including Saving Grace, the film which won Robert Redford‘s Sundance Festival Best Film Award, and Dancer in the Dark, Lars Von Trier’s classic film starring Björk, which went on to win the coveted Palme d'Or Award for best film at the Cannes Film Festival.

During this period, Williams was instrumental in the acquisition of Bill Lowery’s legendary Atlanta-based Lowery Music Publishing Group for Sony Music Entertainment. The catalogue included the songs "Be Bop a Lula", "Young Love" and "Rose Garden". He was appointed as Sony’s consultant for three years to oversee the transition of the business.

Williams currently (2007) runs his own music publishing/production company, "Crumbs Music" and continues to sign new artists, composers, and catologues.His latest project is on Crumbs-The Label is Ali Campbell's(UB40) album 'Running Free' featuring Smokey Robinson, Katie Meluar,Lemar,Beverley Knight,Robin Campbell and Bitty McLean.

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