Dyana Williams previews ‘Unsung’ talent she knew

Written by Bobbi Booker Tribune Staff Writer Saturday, 31 October 2009 18:10 | Print |

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LIFESTYLES – Lifestyles

Dyana Williams

Throughout November, Radio One’s Dyana Williams will preview “Unsung” feature artists on her 107.9 WRNB “Soulful Sunday” show from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. – PHOTO/WHITNEY THOMAS

When TV One premiered the first four episodes of “Unsung” last fall, more than a million viewers tuned in to learn what had happened in the lives and careers of successful artists or groups who, despite great talent, over the years have been under-recognized or under-appreciated.

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The documentaries were so popular that another group aired in June during Black Music Month. This month marks the third installment of the series and again features commentary from popular Philadelphia radio personality Dyana Williams.

The veteran broadcaster (who recently celebrated her 36th radio anniversary) provides a behind-the-scenes perspective of these musicians that few others can offer.

“I played their records when they first came out,” explained Williams. “I had a chance to introduce them to the public, so my relationship with these artists — some of whom I’ve been friends with and others (for) whom I emceed their shows, interviewed or played their records — has been great.”

Heralded as an “ambassador of African-American music,” Williams has often helped artists polish their images while navigating their sudden celebrity.

“I’ve seen them go through the ups and downs,” said Williams. “And even as a media coach, I know the process. When I see the stories of the El Debarges or the Klymaxxes, who have really struggled with fame, recognition or money, I know these are people who have pretty much gone from being unknown aspirants to being well-known household names in the heyday of their careers and then disappearing into obscurity, especially if you look at common threads: challenges handling being well known, money, relationships, or many used drugs or alcohol for coping mechanisms. So, it’s been an interesting journey to be part of this ‘Unsung’ series.”

Williams, a self-proclaimed music activist, helped lay the groundwork for Black Music Month 30 years ago with her former partner, acclaimed songwriter-producer Kenny Gamble. Already an entrepreneur in her own right, “Unsung” has now carved out a slice of celebrity for Williams, who has appeared in all three televised seasons.

“I have a home in New Orleans and noticed people smiling at me,” recalled Williams. “I said, ‘I know people are friendly here, but these are tourists. Why are they smiling at me?’ I was oblivious until someone walked up to me and said, ‘I love your show.’ I was like, ‘My radio show?’ and they said, ‘No, ‘Unsung’ on BET.’ It makes me proud to be affiliated. I mean, it’s not my show. I’m a talking head who happens to have been invited every season.”

Williams believes the roster of artists featured on “Unsung” represents a significance portion of the talent that helped shape the African-American experience.

“‘Unsung’ merits our attention because it’s the soundtrack to our lives,” notes Williams. “I was in the bathroom the other week with a bunch of women and said, ‘It’s a meeting in the ladies’ room!’ Everybody started singing Klymaxx’s (song of the same name). So these songs resonate with our experience of growing up, of falling in love, of our relationships with friends, college memories — all of that. I think that another reason why ‘Unsung’ is so immensely popular is because it is striking familiar chords in our cultural experience.”

Throughout November, Radio One’s Dyana Williams previews “Unsung” feature artists on her 107.9 WRNB “Soulful Sunday” show from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Teena Marie, Bootsy Collins, Roger Troutman & Zapp and Klymaxx kick off TV One’s third installment of “Unsung” with four new episodes beginning Sunday, Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.

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