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Jerry Lynn Williams, 57; Wrote Hit Songs for Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King

December 15, 2005|From a Times Staff Writer

Jerry Lynn Williams, the little-known writer of such songs as Eric Clapton's "Running on Faith," Bonnie Raitt's "Real Man" and B.B. King's "Standing on the Edge of Love," has died. He was 57.

Williams died Nov. 25 of kidney and liver failure on St. Martin in the French West Indies, where he had lived for the last two years, said his son, Chebon Williams of Malibu.

A familiar name only in the music industry, Williams was probably the most successful unknown songwriter in rock and rhythm and blues.

In 1989, five of his songs -- "Pretending," "Anything for Your Love," "Running on Faith," "No Alibis" and "Breaking Point" -- were included on Clapton's "Journeyman" album. The same year, his "Real Man" and "I Will Not Be Denied" were on Raitt's "Nick of Time," which won three Grammy Awards.

Williams also contributed five songs to King's 1992 album, "King of the Blues," and wrote Clint Black's "The Hard Way" and Delbert McClinton's signature song, "Givin' It Up for Your Love."

He helped Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan write the song "Tick Tock."

Williams made four blues-rock albums of his own, but none of them sold well.

Born in Dallas, he grew up in Fort Worth and learned music in church. A pastor's wife taught him to play piano, but at the age of 11, he got his first guitar and focused on playing like Jimmy Reed.

By 14, Williams had dropped out of school and was working Texas roadhouses with his own band, the Epics.

He toured with Little Richard's band until authorities discovered Williams' age and sent him home. He learned to play lead guitar from a fellow band member, Jimmy James, better known as Jimi Hendrix.

A maverick, Williams spent nearly four decades bouncing between Los Angeles, where he wrote, recorded and performed, and Texas and Oklahoma, where he ranched.

On one drive west, he stopped to look at the Grand Canyon and was inspired to write "Standing on the Edge of Love."

The songwriter was recommended to Clapton in 1984 when the singer needed material for what is regarded as his comeback album, "Behind the Sun." Williams wrote the album's "See What Love Can Do," "Something's Happening" and "Forever Man."

Williams was the father of Chris Williams, the Backbone69 rock band leader and songwriter who died in 2001 at the age of 31 when the car he was driving plunged off a Malibu cliff.

The senior Williams was estranged from his family, according to his son, Chebon.

Information on other survivors was unavailable.

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