Introduction to William DeVaughn
William DeVaughn is an American R&B singer-songwriter and musician, a government employee who hit it big when his single “Be Thankful For What You Got” became a national success in 1974. DeVaugh originally wrote it as “A Cadillac Don’t Come Easy” and used his own funds in his production to Omega Sound, a production company in Philadelphia. Omega’s producers then worked a smooth arrangement to it and had it recorded at Philadelphia’s Sigma Studios. The session players comprised of MSFB (of “TSOP” fame) musicians. It was then released on the Roxbury Records, When “Be Thankful For What You Got” became very successful DeVaughn resigned from his government job and decided to pursue music full-time. He released other records that have a religious or gospel theme to them, such as “Blood Is Thicker Than Water,” “Give The Little Man a Great Big Hand” and “Figures Can’t Calculate.”
DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You Got” story of success
William DeVaughn was born William Edward DeVaughn on November 28, 1947 in Washington, D.C.
DeVaughn was a government employee working as a drafting technician. He also worked part-time as a singer. One day, he shelled out $900 to pay for a recording session at a Philadelphia “vanity” recording house called Omega Sound Inc. DeVaughn’s self-penned song that he intended to record was titled “A Cadillac Don’t Come Easy.” It was re-written and would be titled “Be Thankful for What You Got.”
The record’s producer John Davis, who was also part of the famed session group MFSB (who did “The Sound of Philadelphia” or “TSOP” instrumental which was also used as the theme music of the TV show Soul Train), stood as the arranger who gave the record a smooth and polished treatment. The session also featured fellow MFSB members Norman Harris (guitar), Earl Young (drums), Ron Baker (bass) and Vince Montana (vibraphonist) and Larry Washington (percussions).
Omega vice-president and co-ordinator Frank Fiovaranti was impressed by the DeVaughn’s song and record and was determined to bring the it to various labels. He would also be the record’s producer.
At last, the record landed on Roxbury label (owned by singer-songwriter Wes Farrell) and was released as a single. DeVaughn’s sound was clearly influenced by Curtis Mayfield not just in terms of the vocal quality, but also the simple but encouraging, hopeful lyrics. DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You Got” entered the charts in 1974, and ending up as high as #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached the top spot of Billboard’s R&B singles chart, and #31 on the Billboard’s adult contemporary singles chart. It too peaked at #31 on the British charts.
“Be Thankful for What You Got” sold over two million copies, bringing considerable fortune for DeVaughn that he finally quit his governmental post.
DeVaughn’s other charting singles
DeVaughn’s debut LP, also titled Be Thankful for What You Got, mostly consisted of uplifting songs with religious tone that they can be also lined with the gospel genre. His other self-penned single (also coming from that album) “Give the Little Man a Great Big Hand,” placed at #51 on the R&B singles chart in 1974. Another single “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” (written by Pat Rakes and Russ Faith) placed at #43 pop and #10 R&B in 1974.
In many of his live performances, DeVaughn (who is a member of Jehovah’s Witness) would preach to his audience from the stage; he would even admonish them as well.
Re-appearing only occasionally in the music scene
DeVaughn’s interest in the music business eventually dissipated. He returned to his day job as a draftsman; he also worked for a record music store. DeVaughn would return to the music scene only in fleeting recurrences. In 1980 he went back to release another record on Philadelphia’s TEC Records, “Figures Can’t Calculate” from the album Figures Can’t Calculate the Love I Have for You. The single peaked at #37 on the R&B chart. That same year he even did a remake of his biggest hit “Be Thankful for What You Got” which received a #83 ranking on the dance chart and #44 on the UK singles chart.
In 2004, DeVaughn returned again in the music scene. He released his last single so far, the aptly titled “I Came Back,” on his self-established Mighty Two Diamond imprint.