Michael Jackson, Madonna guitarist David Williams dies

David Williams, guitarist of exquisite taste, dies at 58
David Williams, guitarist of exquisite taste, dies at 58

Guitarist David Williams, whose recording and touring credits include Michael Jackson, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Marvin Gaye and The Temptations among countless others, died last Friday at age 58.

Williams, a native of Newport News, Virginia, was admitted to the Sentara Hospital in nearby Hampton after he suffered a stroke on 2 March. He fell into a coma and later died of cardiac arrest.

Although probably nobody outside the music industry knew his name, practically everybody on the planet heard his work thanks to his in-the-pocket playing on Michael Jackson's smash Billie Jean. Williams contributed the clean, funky strummed solo that was integral to the sound of the song,

Became a go-to LA guitarist

Having started his career at the age of 18 with The Dells, Williams went on to play with The Temptations. Real success proved elusive until he hooked up with producer Quincy Jones, who heard something in Williams' understated rhythm playing. After Jones utilized Williams' signature sound on Michael Jackson's Off The Wall and Thriller albums, Williams became one of the most in-demand LA session guitarists in the '80s and '90s.

This journalist had the pleasure of knowing Williams. As a person, he was gentle and easy-going, loved to laugh, adored pasta with mussels, and never once boasted about his success. He always referred to his guitar playing as "a little bit of secret spice. You don't need much of it, but the right amount gets the job done."

Williams is survived by four children with his ex-wife Deborah. He will be missed.

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.