Brooklyn-born singer/songwriter Will Downing attended Erasmus Hall High, famous for its show business alumnae including Clive Davis and Barbra Streisand. Downing worked on albums by a variety of artists before striking out as a solo artist. His albums have been both popular and critically acclaimed earning him the title “Prince of Sophisticated Soul.”
Downing has recorded 19 albums over the past 28 years. His most recent album, “Black Pearls,” pays homage to African American women and their music featuring covers of songs by Brenda Russell, Chaka Khan and Randy Crawford. His inspiration for the album is the late Phyllis Hyman. Downing will be performing his Christmas show at the Cobb Energy Centre on Sunday, Dec. 11, joined by jazz saxophonist/flautist Najee and jazz violinist Ken Ford.
INtown Atlanta caught up with Downing and talked with him about his music and his new album.
On your latest album, “Black Pearls,” you do homage to some great songs by some great African American women. What inspired you to do this project and how did you choose the songs?
The whole project came about during a conversation with a friend who like me worked for Phyllis Hyman. We were exchanging our Phyllis stories and then started talking about music. Oddly enough his favorite song by her happened to be mine as well – ” Meet Me On The Moon.” I realized that no one had ever covered the song so I decided to take a stab at it. I loved the way the interpretation came out and then asked myself what other female artists haven’t I paid tribute to. That’s how the project was born.
You have overcome some very big challenges in life in terms of your health. What has given you strength and hope?
In 2007 I was diagnosed with polymyositis an autoimmune disease. It put me in the hospital and took away my ability to walk for about a year and a half. After months of rehab I was able to slowly return to a functioning life. God is great!!! Honestly at the time music was not at the forefront of my mind. Surviving was priority one. I’m thankful to be able to continue to do what I do in entertainment.
Tell us a little about your Christmas show.
I’ve been doing these Soulful Christmas Shows off and on for the last 10 years. It a combination of hits that we’ve recorded over the years combined with Christmas songs. Mainly hits, though.
Franklin Abbott is a psychotherapist and writer.