Will Downing is a musical artist whose voice has the comforting and commanding sound of God, but the vulnerability of man.
There is no one like him who has been able to capture so many elements in one man’s voice. His voice can hit like an ultrasonic boom, and is yet comforting. It is soulful, yet silky; jazzy, yet sexy; and somehow Downing seems to mesh it all together to create a rich baritone voice that soothes, transcends, captivates and entertains his delighted audience.
According to R&B Legend Patti LaBelle, Downing has a voice that makes you forget about everything.
Wilfred Will Downing, known affectionately to many fans worldwide as, “Chocolate,” has been seducing and holding hostage the ears of audiences for over 30 decades, through the span of 20 albums (count them—20 albums). Downing’s voice has incredible range and versatility. According to R&B singer Regina Bell, Downing can do it all in that he can sing them individually, or combine R&B, Jazz, Christmas Music and even Gospel.
For years the Brooklyn-born native, Downing, was a big success over in Europe, and his music steadily climbed the charts there. His music was played in heavy rotation in Europe, but in the United States, not so much. It took years before his sound began being noticed in America. Things were so tough that Downing kept his day job working for a law office, filtering calls.
Downing, who went to the same prestigious music institution as R&B music sensation Stephanie Mills and music icon Barbara Streisand, spent many of his earlier years singing backup for many groups and artists. Then in the early 2000, Downing finally began climbing up the music charts with his own music.
After years of singing backup, his music career began to skyrocket in Europe and later in the United States. He even had a top-selling Christmas album in 2005 entitled, “Christmas, Love & You.” Downing was finally riding on a wave of much-earned success.
In 2006, all that changed for the worst! One evening, while taking his family out to the movies, Downing was so weak and tired that he couldn’t even turn the car’s steering wheel. He then told his wife, Audrey Wheeler, that she should take him to the hospital. According to Downing, by the time they got him to the hospital, “I was damn near paralyzed.”
It was there that they were told that Downing had polymyositis, a rare, chronic autoimmune muscle disease. This disease weakens the muscles throughout the body. The muscle weakness usually occurs in the muscles closest to the body’s core and those involved with voluntarily movement.
Downing’s wife was told, her husband was probably not going to make it and if he did, that he would never walk again (amongst a number of other life-threatening or life-altering prognoses). His condition had gotten so bad that he was being feed intravenously through tubes. He lost 100 pounds and most importantly, lost his voice. Downing said the doctor’s wanted to cut a hole in his throat. He told them to find another way, that he was not going to allow them to cut his throat.
Over the next 18 months Downing, when not in bed or confined to a wheelchair, underwent strenuous physical therapy. Downing was determined to get better and get back to doing what he loved: singing.
Downing had a contractual agreement with his record company and wanted to get back to singing. Still sick and with a voice that was somewhat back to normal, Downing started work on a recording entitled “After Tonight,” from the hospital. According to his friend, Tyrone Corbett, he could not even hold his head up. Corbett states that he had to hold Downing’s head for him to sing. Downing was so determined to do this album.
Downing’s wife, Audrey, believes that working on that album is what kept him alive. Downing completed the album and the single, “God is So Amazing,” went on to be a hit.
Downing went on to recovery and created 7 more albums after his polymyositis diagnosis. The symptoms associated with polymyositis include progressive muscle aches, muscle pain, fatigue, lung disease, weakness, trouble swallowing and more. The cause of polymyositis is unknown and there is no known cure for this rare inflammatory muscle disease. For information about polymyositis go to www.understandingmyositis.org.