David McWilliams (4 July 1945 — 8 January 2002) was a Northern Irish singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He landed three albums in the UK Albums Chart in the mid 1960s.
Born in the Cregagh area of Belfast in 1945, David McWilliams moved to Ballymena when he was three. He grew up with seven brothers and sisters and as a teenager developed an early interest in the rock'n'roll music of Buddy Holly and learned to play the guitar. He also developed a rebellious streak and in 1960 was expelled from Ballymena Technical School for drinking between lessons. Even when he returned, McWilliams played truant constantly, spending days thinking up songs.
In 1963, he followed his father and became an apprentice fitter in a torpedo factory in Co Antrim. However, he was always looking for a way out. Six foot tall with blue eyes and unruly black hair, he cut a distinctive figure on the football pitch; he excelled as a goalkeeper but an ankle injury kept him out of the local Linfield football team.
He preferred music anyway and joined the Coral Showband. Not content with performing covers, he began writing his own compositions such as "Redundancy Blues" and "Time of Trouble", inspired by his surroundings. "I listen with my eyes and I sing what I see," he later told journalists.
McWilliams recorded his first single in 1966, and was lifted to a higher profile throughout the UK by Phil Solomon, an influential Irish manager who had worked with Them and The Bachelors. In 1967 McWilliams managed to record three albums — quite a prolific rate for an artist who was not a star — all of which reached the lower regions of the UK Albums Chart, with the second, David McWilliams Volume 2, almost making the Top 20. These albums were produced and arranged by Mike Leander, who had already proven his facility for mixing pop music and rock with classical influenced orchestration, on records by Marianne Faithfull.
He was best known for his 1967 song, "Days of Pearly Spencer". The lyrics were inspired by the fate of a homeless friend of his. The song was covered in 1968 by Caterina Caselli ("Il Volto Della Vita"), later in 1988 by the French psychedelic band the Vietnam Veterans, and in 1992 by Marc Almond (with an additional verse written by Almond, giving the song a more optimistic tone). The latter became a British No. 4 hit single.
"The single that will blow your mind, the album that will change the course of music" trumpeted full-page adverts in the New Musical Express alongside enthusiastic quotes from journalists and other pop impresarios comparing the 22-year-old McWilliams to Donovan and Bob Dylan. Unfortunately, back in 1967, Radio 1, the BBC's new pop network, didn't add "The Days of Pearly Spencer" to its playlist, maybe because Solomon was also a director of Radio Caroline, the pirate station just outlawed by the Marine Broadcasting Offences Acts passed by Harold Wilson's government.
Nevertheless, the single was played incessantly and defiantly on Caroline while stations in continental Europe picked up on its strange "phoned-in" chorus and pastoral arrangement. The following year, the track charted all over Europe and impinged itself on the continental consciousness as the soundtrack to Swinging London alongside the likes of "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues and Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade Of Pale".
Although McWilliams never had a hit single in the United Kingdom, he was popular on continental Europe (Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands) and Japan. McWilliams song, "Can I Get There By Candlelight?", first released in 1968, and was used for the theme of a Dutch radio programme, Candlelight, with Jan van Veen.
McWilliams continued to record through the 1970s & 80’s, without breaking through to wide success. A reluctant stage performer, McWilliams nevertheless recorded more than ten solo albums, but his career was mismanaged to such an extent by the likes of the notorious London landlord Peter Rachman that he lost an estimated £2m in royalties.
In 1982, McWilliams moved back to Northern Ireland. He remained an elusive performer, only making the odd appearance in support of striking miners. McWilliams's work deserves re-appraisal.
McWilliams died of a heart attack at his home in Ballycastle, County Antrim in 2002, at the age of 56.(info edited from The Independent & Wikipedia)