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Sophisticated Soul

Will Downing stars at The Levoy on Sunday, June 30.

by William Sokolic

If the walls of Brooklyn’s Erasmus High could talk, they’d sing instead. Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand are just two of its alumni. Another famous singing alumnus appears Sunday, June 30 at 7 p.m. Levoy Theatre in Millville: Will Downing. During his years at Erasmus, it was considered a school for the arts.

“When you stand on the shoulders of the great people who attended the school you want to be the best you can be,” Downing says. More than 30 years and 27 albums later, Downing has provided his own shoulders for future students to follow.

His latest album Soul Rising attests to his influence on others, but also those who left their mark on Downing. Listen to his delivery of a song, and you can’t help but notice who inspired his approach to music.

“The Philadelphia sound definitely had a huge influence on me and how I do what I do. The soulful sounds, warm heartfelt performances from the artist that performed those iconic songs, from The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Phyllis Hyman, The Jones Girls etc.,” he says.

Downing has recorded his own version of Lou Rawls, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” one of the biggest hits from the Philadelphia International songbook. Then there’s the effect of Luther Vandross and Al Jarreau.

“They were probably my biggest influences as an up-and-coming vocalist. The King of Sophisticated Soul is what I called Luther,” says Downing, who has earned the title of the Prince of Sophisticated Soul.

There was no specific time frame or incident during his younger years when Downing got the urge to join the music industry. It seemed a choice he was destined to make.

“I’ve been interested in music my whole life,” he says. “But I never thought I’d have a career over 35 years doing it. I’m blessed and fortunate.”

During his early years in the industry, Downing worked as a session singer as well. “I cut my teeth as a background vocalist for whoever called. That includes jingles.

These days finds Downing doing more narration than session singing to supplement his gigs.

Downing’s repertoire consists of signature interpretations of R&B classics like “I Go Crazy”, “Wishing on A Star” and “I Try”, along with original hits “A Million Ways,” “Sorry I” and the showstopper, “Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This.”

His distinctive baritone voice has carved a unique niche in the music marketplace, his website notes. He also hosts a weekly radio show, “The Wind Down,” which is aired on the website and over 20 stations around the world.

Downing acknowledges the industry has changed during his career: “As a touring working recording artist you have to change with the times. I’m independent as an artist and I use my newer releases as a form of promotion to let the audience and promoters know I still exist. I encourage streaming but adults don’t stream the way younger folks do.”

The Levoy audience can expect a deeply moving experience. They can enjoy the best of Downing’s last 30 plus years. “We have a great time at our shows with laughter as well as music.”

Tickets to Will Downing at Levoy on Sunday, June 30, are $69 to $89 plus fees, available at

For more on Will Downing, visit