Balladeer Wil Downing Readies His First Gospel Disc
Sometimes life gets in the way. For Will Downing, The Prince of Sophisticated Soul, more than two decades of critical and commercial success as a singer was suddenly at risk-along with his life. There’s a long, rich tradition in the Black church of testifying, sharing “testimony” about a point of great adversity in life, when the power of God and prayer turn everything around against all odds-that “low point” marking a test, God’s test of faith. In late 2007, in the very prime of his life, Will Downing faced an almost unimaginable test. A sudden onset of the auto-immune disease polymyositis threatened everything he held dear: his health, his ability to provide for his family, his musical gifts, and life itself. Weak, frail and nearly paralyzed, he did not curse God, but instead said a prayer: “Lord you see me through this and I promise I will give you all the honor, all the praise…wherever I go.” He didn’t turn away from God and God didn’t turn away from him. Twelve years later, Will Downing is a walking, singing testimony of the power of faith and prayer. And he delivers on his promise with his new CD, THE PROMISE, an inspirational album-actually his first gospel album — to be released November 9, 2018 by Shanachie Entertainment.
Though THE PROMISE will likely be categorized as a gospel album or a “praise-and-worship” album and while those elements are there, such categorization misses the larger intent. The album is Downing’s heartfelt 10-song thank you letter to God for bringing him back from the edge of darkness into His marvelous light. A close listen reveals his pain, gratitude and, yes, his “testimony” to all who find themselves losing hope against incredible odds. As such, on THE PROMISE, Will Downing taps previously unrevealed aspects of his talent to step boldly outside of his “Prince of Sophisticated Soul” persona to pour raw unblinking emotion into a musical re-creation of his journey from hospital bed to wheelchair and ultimately back to the stage. In short, this is a Will Downing no one has heard before in his now 30-plus year career, as one who stared down his own mortality and emerged, through faith, on the other side, blessed to continue to do what he does best.
“In 2007, I got sick,” Will recalls. “I mean really sick!!! I was losing weight at a rapid pace and my overall strength was diminishing. Some of the basic things in life had become difficult-standing up, walking, shaving, putting on a belt, driving…being a hard-headed man I didn’t go to the doctor; I blamed my condition on stress or general wear-and-tear or fatigue. The last straw was when I was driving with my wife and daughter in the car and I couldn’t turn the steering wheel. I decided then to go to the doctor where they drew blood and sent me home. By the time I got home they’d left a message for me to go to the hospital. The next day I was pretty much paralyzed, with no use of my legs. After a few weeks of testing they diagnosed me with a rare auto-immune disease called polymyositis. As I lay in the hospital bed, all hope seemingly gone, I started to pray like never before, begging for help and promising God that if he got me out of this I’d do whatever he needed and wanted me to do. It took a year plus of being in and out of hospitals before I saw any progress. And, yes, I was still in a wheelchair. God sent me angels; people would come over from the rehab center on their own time to my home to help in my recovery. Along with my friends and family, they seriously helped in getting me slowly back on my feet. Producers and writers would come and work by my bedside and wheelchair, making new music.”
Will was finally able to resume recording and performing, making several new albums of the sophisticated soul style that brought him success. But then it came time to fulfill his vow to God and so he began work on THE PROMISE.