Today in Music History (April 15): Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams team for a #1 smash

April 15, 1978 – Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams hit #1 with “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”

By the time 1978 rolled around, Johnny Mathis had already been a superstar for more than two decades, and one of the biggest selling artists of the entire century. On the other hand, 27 year old Deniece Williams (16 years Mathis’s junior) was an up-and-coming singer who had broken out as a solo artist just three years earlier, but had quickly established herself as a uniquely gifted vocalist.

April 15, 1978 – Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams hit #1 with “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”

By the time 1978 rolled around, Johnny Mathis had already been a superstar for more than two decades, and one of the biggest selling artists of the entire century. On the other hand, 27 year old Deniece Williams (16 years Mathis’s junior) was an up-and-coming singer who had broken out as a solo artist just three years earlier, but had quickly established herself as a uniquely gifted vocalist.

So, the pairing of the two may have seemed a bit unexpected, but they were both shining lights at Columbia Records with significant potential appeal to the burgeoning adult soul market. And, to be honest, the rising Williams provided an opportunity to boost the somewhat flagging sales that Mathis was experiencing due to the changing musical landscape of the time, particularly the emergence of disco as the dominant force in R&B.

Mathis was working on his You Light Up My Life album, and producer Jack Gold brought in Williams to duet on a Nat Kipner/John Vallins song about a love that had gone wrong. And the two stars absolutely clicked from the first note. On this day in 1978, that song, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late," shot all the way to #1 on the R&B charts, where it would sit for an entire month, as well as hitting #1 on the pop and adult contemporary charts. Amazingly, it was Mathis’s first charttopper in 19 years.

The song was so successful, Mathis and Williams quickly followed up later that year with an entire album of duets called That’s What Friends Are For, which also landed in the top 20.

Both artists went on to continue to shine for decades to come, and remain active to this day, with each releasing successful new music in the 2020s. But it was on this date in 1978 that these two great singers did something absolutely special together that still glimmers today.

By Chris Rizik

 

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