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William Bell

William Bell at the 2009 Warren Haynes Christmas Jam in Asheville, NC
Background information
Birth name William Yarborough
Born July 16, 1939 (1939-07-16) (age 70)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Origin Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres R&B, soul
Occupations Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1957–present
Labels Stax Records, Wilbe Records
Associated acts The Del Rios

William Bell (born July 16, 1939) is an American soul singer and songwriter, and one of the architects of the Stax-Volt sound. As a performer, he is probably best known for 1961's "You Don't Miss Your Water" (his debut single); 1968's "Private Number" (a duet with Judy Clay, and a top 10 hit in the UK); and 1976's "Tryin' To Love Two", Bell's only US top 40 hit, which also hit #1 on the R&B charts.

As a songwriter, Bell co-authored the Chuck Jackson hit "Any Other Way", Billy Idol's 1986 hit "Got To Be Your Lover", and the blues classic "Born Under A Bad Sign", popularized by both Albert King and Cream.



Bell was born William Yarborough in Memphis, Tennessee[1]. He took the last name "Bell" as a stage name in honour of his grandmother, whose first name was Belle.

After releasing a few scattered singles in the late 1950s as a member of the vocal group The Del-Rios, Bell began recording for the Stax label in 1961. He scored a minor hit (#95 pop) with his first Stax single, the country-flavored "You Don't Miss Your Water". Further singles followed, both as a solo artist and (for one single) as a member of The Del-Rios. National chart success for these singles was non-existent, but Bell was successful enough as a regional artist that Stax stuck with him for seven straight non-charting singles. In 1966, Bell finally broke through with his first substantial R&B hit, "Share What You Got (But Keep What You Need)"

In 1967, Bell co-wrote the song "Born Under a Bad Sign" with Booker T. Jones which became a signature song for blues musician Albert King. It was later popularized by the power trio Cream. A year later, in 1968, Bell's collaboration with Judy Clay yielded the memorable hit, "Private Number."[1]

Further U.S. hits followed with "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" (1968), which was remade into a U.S. Top 10 pop hit by Billy Idol in 1986 as "To Be a Lover." It had previously been covered by the Jamaican singer George Faith and was the (amended) title tune for his 1977 album To Be a Lover.

Bell continued to record for Stax through the label's dissolution in 1975, with modest commercial success. He then switched to Mercury, and in 1977 topped Billboard's Hot Soul Singles chart with his polyamorous soul song "Tryin' to Love Two".

In 1985 Bell founded the label Wilbe and issued Passion, which found its most receptive audiences in the UK (although "I Don't Want to Wake Up Feeling Guilty," a duet with Janice Bullock, was a minor U.S. hit).[1] In 1986, The single "Headline News" entered the UK singles charts.[2]

Bell's recording career extended to 2006, when his most recent LP, New Lease of Life, was released on his own Wilbe Records label.[1]


In 1997 Bell was inducted in to the Georgia Music Hall Of Fame.[3] The same year he received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's R&B Pioneer Award.[1]

In 2004, Bell was inducted into Carolina Beach Music Hall Of Fame.[4]




Year Label & Cat No Title Chart positions
U.S. Hot 100 U.S. R&B UK Singles Chart[5]
1961 Stax 116 You Don’t Miss Your Water #95
1962 Stax 128 Any Other Way #131
1963 Stax 132 I Told You So
1963 Stax 135 Just As I Thought
1963 Stax 138 Somebody Mentioned Your Name
1963 Stax 141 I’ll Show You
1964 Stax 146 Who Will It Be Tomorrow
1965 Stax 174 Crying All By Myself
1966 Stax 191 Share What You Got (But Keep What You Need) #27
1966 Stax 199 Never Like This Before #29
1967 Stax 212 Everybody Loves A Winner #95 #18
1967 Stax 227 Eloise (Hang On In There)
1967 Stax 237 Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday #33
1968 Stax 248 Every Man Ought To Have A Woman (A-Side) #115
1968 Stax 248 A Tribute To A King (B-Side) #86 #16 #31
1968 Stax 0005 Private Number (with Judy Clay) #75 #17 #8
1968 Stax 0015 I Forgot To Be Your Lover #45 #10
1968 Stax 0017 My Baby Specializes (with Judy Clay) #104 #45
1969 Stax 0032 My Whole World Is Falling Down #39
1969 Stax 0038 Happy #129
1969 Stax 0040 Soul-A-Lujah (with Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, Pervis Staples, Carla Thomas, Mavis Staples and Cleotha Staples)
1969 Stax 0043 Love’s Sweet Sensation (with Mavis Staples)
1969 Stax 0044 I Can’t Stop (with Carla Thomas) #106
1969 Stax 0054 Born Under A Bad Sign
1970 Stax 0067 All I Have To Do Is Dream (with Carla Thomas)
1970 Stax 0070 Lonely Soldier
1971 Stax 0092 A Penny For Your Thoughts
1971 Stax 0106 All For The Love Of A Woman
1972 Stax 0128 Save Us
1973 Stax 0157 Lovin’ On Borrowed Time #101 #22
1973 Stax 0175 I’ve Got To Go On Without You #54
1974 Stax 0198 Gettin’ What You Want (Losin’ What You Got) #39
1974 Stax 0221 Get It While It’s Hot
1976 Mercury 73829 Tryin’ To Love Two #10 #1
1977 Mercury 73922 Coming Back For More #66
1977 Mercury 73961 Easy Comin’ Out (Hard Goin’ In) #30
1983 Kat Family 03502 Bad Time To Break Up #65
1983 Kat Family 03995 Playing Hard To Get
1985 Wilbe 201 Lovin’ On Borrowed Time (new version)
1986 Wilbe 202 I Don’t Want To Wake Up (Feelin’ Guilty) (with Janice Bulluck) #59
1986 Wilbe 204 Headline News #65 #70
1986 Passion #96
1985 Wilbe 205 Please Come Home For Christmas
1989 Wilbe 508 Getting Out Of Your Bed
1990 Wilbe 515 Need Your Love So Bad
1982 Wilbe 619 Bedtime Story
1995 Wilbe 624 Shake Hands (Come Out Lovin’)


  • 1967 The Soul of a Bell - Stax 709
  • 1969 Bound to Happen - Stax 2014
  • 1971 Wow ...William Bell - Stax 2037
  • 1972 Phases of Reality - Stax 3005
  • 1973 Waiting for William Bell - Stax 3012
  • 1974 Relating - Stax 5502
  • 1977 Comin' Back for More - Mercury
  • 1977 It's Time You Took Another Listen - Mercury
  • 1983 Survivor - Kat Family
  • 1985 Passion - Wilbe
  • 1989 On a Roll - Wilbe
  • 1992 Bedtime Stories - Wilbe
  • 2001 A Portrait Is Forever - Wilbe
  • 2002 Collectors Edition - Wilbe
  • 2006 New Lease On Life - Wilbe

In popular culture


  1. ^ a b c d e "Biography by Jason Ankeny". Retrieved July 5, 2009. 
  2. ^ Rice, Tim; Rice, Jonathan; Gambaccini, Paul (1990), Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums, Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness World Records and Guinness Publishing, ISBN 0-85112-398-8 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "2004 Hall of Fame Inductees". Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 55. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links


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