June Deniece Chandler Williams, a soprano lyricist, was born on June 3, 1951, in Gary, Indiana. Williams, the first of four children born to Lee Chandler, a security guard, and Alma Chandler, a certified practical nurse, sung in the chorus at Church of God in Christ as a child. During her high school years, she also sung in the Chicago-based female group The Lovelites and played the flute. In 1969, she graduated from Tolleston High School in Gary. After that, Williams moved to Baltimore, Maryland, to study nursing, enrolling at Morgan State University for a year and a half before leaving in 1971. She also worked as a singer in Casino Royale in Baltimore on the side.
In 1971, Deniece married Kendrick Williams. Kendrick Jr. and Kevin were their two sons. She divorced Gary in 1975 after leaving him and moving to Los Angeles, California. She was a backup vocalist for Stevie Wonder as part of “Wonderlove” during this time. By 1976, Williams had released her debut solo album, This Is Niecy, which went gold (over 500,000 copies sold) in 1977, with the single “Free” peaking at no. 1 on the British Singles chart, no. 2 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart, and no. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100.
This triumph was followed by the 1978 singles “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” and “You’re All I Need To Get By,” both of which were recorded with the renowned Johnny Mathis and peaked at number one on the R&B chart.
Williams married actor and preacher Christopher Joy in 1981. The couple divorced in 1982, the same year that Williams’ cover of The Royalettes’ 1965 single “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” became a Top 10 pop smash, peaking at No. 10 and charting for 17 weeks. Let’s Hear It for the Boy was released by Williams in 1984. The song of the same name reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for eight weeks, becoming her biggest hit and selling more than one million copies.
Williams married Brad Westering in 1986. Forrest and Logan were their two sons. That same year, she signed with Sparrow Records and released her gospel album, Boys So Glad I Know, which received a Grammy nomination for “Best Female Gospel Performance.”
Williams received four Grammy Awards over her career. In 1987, she received awards for “Best Female Soul Gospel Performance” for “I Surrender All” and “Best Duo or Group Gospel Performance” for the single “They Say.” The song “I Believe in You” won her “Best Female Gospel Performance” the following year, 1988, and Williams’ album This is My Song won Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album in 1999.
In 1993, Williams divorced Brad Westering. Shanachie Records released Williams’ R&B album Love, Niecy Style in 2007. It peaked at number 41 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.