William Ray “Willie” Norwood Sr. (born November 30, 1955) is an American Gospel singer. He is the father and voice coach of R&B singers Brandy and Ray J.
Willie Norwood’s career in the music industry began at Jackson State University on a band scholarship
during the 1970s where he joined a soul music group named “The Composers”, becoming their lead vocalist
and trumpeter. The group found a modicum of success playing the Mississippi club scene and began
opening up for acts such as Rufus and Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls. Norwood soon moved to Hollywood
with the group where they attracted a loyal following.
The fast-paced- Hollywood scene caused Norwood to stray from his religious upbringing, causing him and
his wife, Sonja Bates-Norwood, to move back to McComb, Mississippi, in the late 1970s to begin a family as
well as to regain focus. Eventually, California would once again play an important role musically for Willie
Norwood and family. He began working with local community choirs in Los Angeles while beginning post-
graduate work at California State University. Norwood’s work with the choirs aﬀorded a young Brandy and
Ray J the opportunity enhance their blooming musical interest.
Read More About Willie Norwood Sr.
After putting together Brandy’s Never-Say- Never World Tour, his first commercial album, “Bout it” was released in late 2001 under Atlantic Records and received a Dove Award nomination. Brandy was featured on the album as well. “Bout It” managed to peak at Number 13 on the Billboard Gospel Chart. In his album he worked with artists like Kirk Whalum, Billy Preston, The William Brothers, Brandy, Ray J and Angie Winans.
Brandy and Ray J appeared as background vocals on “Bout It”. Whalum played saxophone and Preston sang on I’ll Trade A Lifetime” and “Bout It”. The Williams Brothers, who wrote and produced the title track and “The Search Is Over,” also provided background vocals. “A Love Shared” was written by Angie Winans. Norwood started working with Ray J and Brandy in the studio for their upcoming albums. He split with Atlantic Records in 2002.
2005–2007: New label and new album
“I Believe” is the second CD presented by Willie Norwood and was released under new label Knockout Entertainment. It is a definitive and eclectic blend of a cappella southern gospel songs. Norwood set up the KnockOut Vocal Studio in North Hollywood, CA and brought his southern charm to a 12-song a cappella gospel interpretation of “old church” songs. Three of the songs can be heard on his Myspace site: “I Know It Was the Blood”, “I Believe” and “Amazing Grace”. It is the first album to be released by Knockout Entertainment only.
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