Dawn Williams
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Dawn Williams


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The best kept secret in music



Franklin woman shoots for the stars

Home News Tribune Online 03/10/07


There are two kinds of vocalists, says Plainfield-based record producer G-Man.

"What we say is some people sing, and some people sang," said G-Man, also known as George Grimstead. "She sang."

The she he is referring to is New Brunswick-native Dawn Williams, and people are hearing her sang in all sorts of places — everywhere from local clubs to the Philippines. The public can see her on TV as Williams will be featured on "Showtime at the Apollo" at 1 a.m. Sunday on Channel 4.

The broadcast was taped March 2. It was Williams' fifth time on the Apollo stage. She recently received an invite to perform again after dazzling the crowd at the "Showtime at the Apollo" show at the State Theatre in New Brunswick last month.

"New York is dangerous," said Williams of the Apollo crowd. "If you walk out and you're too happy, you'll get booed. If you walk out there and you're too sad, you'll get booed. You walk out on stage and you got the wrong color on, you'll get booed. If you walk out on stage and you sing a black song and you're white, you'll get booed."

Williams doesn't get booed. She wins. So far she's racked up three out of four victories at the Apollo's famed Amateur Night.

She sang.

"When she sings you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up," said Alethea "Pumpkin" Mack, owner of The Office recording studio in Plainfield. "I just know Dawn's going to make it."

Williams' voice is at once alluring, playful and soulful. It's a high alto and a hint of a jazzy lilt recalls the great Ella Fitzgerald.

That is, if Ella were member of the hip-hop generation.

"The hip-hop culture lives through her voice," said G-Man, who has worked with stars such as Mary J. Blige and Angie Stone. "Few have that quality and texture."

Williams herself draws inspiration from singer Jennifer Holiday, best known for originating the role of Effie White in the Broadway production of "Dreamgirls."

Williams sang "I Am Changing" from "Dreamgirls" at the State Theatre.

"I don't know too much about her, but the way she sings, you can hear the struggle, you can hear that she's lived what I'm living now as far as getting out there and people approving of what you look like, not what you sound like," Williams said.

In Williams' opinion, only the big girls have soul.

"We big girls — I'm saying we because I lost a couple of pounds, I used to be a big girl, too — we big girls, we got the soul. That's where the soul comes from — this meat," said Williams with an easy laugh. "You can't get no soul from no little bitty bitty girls like Beyonce."

This former big girl, 26, was raised in New Brunswick and is a Special Education Paraprofessional at the New Brunswick Middle School when she's not on stage. She now lives in Franklin her daughter, Shianna, 12.

That is, when she's not traveling the world to sing, thanks to her manager, famed boxing promoter Murad Muhammad. Williams has performed in boxing related events around the world.

This weekend, she won't be watching herself on TV. She's heading down to Atlanta to record tracks with rapper Young Joc's producer. She returns to the Apollo for another appearance on the famed Amateur Night on May 9.

"I perform whenever somebody comes up to me an says, "Do you want to do this?' " said Williams, whose sister is recording artist Shareefa Cooper. "If it's pay, it's pay. If it's not, it's not. I'm getting out there as long as somebody is hearing me."

Taken from: http://www.thnt.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070310/NEWS/703100400/1001/PHOTO - Home News Tribune Online

""Showtime" in New Brunswick"

"Showtime" in New Brunswick
Home News Tribune Online


NEW BRUNSWICK — "Showtime at the Apollo on Tour" came to New Brunswick on Saturday night and saved its best for last.

Performing before a near full house at The State Theatre, Dawn Williams of Somerset — the 15th and final act — stole the show by giving a powerful rendition to a ballad titled "I'm Changing."

Unlike a lot of the acts who tried to woo the crowd right from the start by doing theatrics with their voices, Williams let the people know she had a voice, then began to work it throughout her performance.

Once she started reaching down and belting out the notes, keeping her act fresh until the end, Williams had the crowd in the palm of her hands.

Williams, along with the 14 other acts, were chosen among 100 amateurs who auditioned. She won $500 and a slot on an upcoming "Amateur Night at the Apollo" in New York City.

Finishing a close second to Williams was Lenny Lawson of Plainfield. Dressed in a 3-piece suit, complete with handkerchief and top hat, Lawson had the voice and the stage presence to vault him into first-place consideration.

Once he took the microphone off the stand, Lawson started pouring out his heart, hitting the stage with one knee. His emotions spilled over to the crowd, causing his rise to second place.

Another of the 11 finalists — four acts were booed off — who had a shot at the top prize was Karlon Taylor of Newark, whose rendition of "God Bless the Child" was very powerful as he gradually won over the audience.

Several of the acts started out strong, but were unable to sustain the same energy throughout as the crowd became restless.

In other cases, the crowd reaction was mixed. If a portion of the crowd booed one act, the other half would cheer in defense.

Among the other vocalists who survived the wrath of the enthusiastic crowd were Nicole Scavone from South Plainfield, young Zach Levine from Monroe, Lady V from Somerset and Rykia Diggs from New Brunswick. Dancers who made the cut included Anayah Nesbitt from Medford, N.Y., and tap dancer Kyle Wilder from Dover.

Overall — with host Capone providing levity after each act was through, interacting with the audience — it was a night of fun for all.

Taken from: http://www.thnt.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070212/NEWS/702120385/1001 - Home News Tribune Online

"Showtime at the Apollo, Central Jersey-style"

Showtime at the Apollo, Central Jersey-style
The 'Showtime at the Apollo' tour comes to New Brunswick tonight, played with local talent


Harlem’s world-famous Apollo Theatre has been “where stars are born and legends are made” since 1934, introducing America to talent from Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday to Luther Vandross and Lauryn Hill.

Central Jersey gets its chance to shine when the State Theatre brings Harlem to New Brunswick with “Showtime at the Apollo on Tour” at 8 tonight.

January’s open auditions drew more than 100 contenders, strutting their stuff in hopes of earning a cash prize plus a chance to perform on the real Apollo’s legendary 125th Street stage.

The Apollo house band Ray Chew and the Crew will back up the 15 finalists, but they’d better please the crowd, or the “Executioner” will literally sweep them off the stage. An Apollo comedian will be the host and keep things moving.

Local performers include singer Lenny Lawson of Plainfield, singer Nicole Scavone of South Plainfield, dancer Vynessa DiBlasio of Bridgewater, singer Vernea Taylor (aka “Lady V”) of the Somerset section of Franklin, singer Dawn Williams of Somerset, singer Kim Trachtenberg of East Brunswick, singer Rykia Diggs of New Brunswick and singer C. J. Williams of New Brunswick.

Nicole Scavone, 24, of South Plainfield sings with an all-female 20-member a capella group called Shockwave. She always wanted to audition for the real Apollo, and she proved her courage at the audition.

“I was going to sing Janis Joplin’s ‘Piece of my Heart’ for my audition, but we had trouble with the backing track,” Scavone said. “So I sang Etta James’ ‘At Last’ a capella instead.”

Lenny Lawson, 28, of Plainfield has a special reason to sing this night. It’s the anniversary of the death of his brother. His brother loved to sing, and he convinced Lawson to do the same.
“My family always spends this night together, so this year we’ll have something to keep our minds off the sadness,” Lawson said. “I know my brother will be watching, so I’m going to do my best. I’m singing ‘Giving Up,’ recorded by Gladys Knight and later by Donny Hathaway.”

“If you’ve never seen ‘Showtime at the Apollo’ live, you’re in for a treat,” State Theatre president Wesley O. Brustad said. “Come out and root for your favorite.”

Come out early between 6:30 and 7 p.m. and be treated to half-price drinks and complimentary hors d’oeuvres from Legends of Milltown until curtain time, courtesy of the State Theatre.

Taken from: http://www.c-n.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070210/ENTERTAIN01/302090001/1035 - The Courier News


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