LaVell Williams (1967-2018), Detroit Sound Conservancy’s Board President, who mentored a generation of music lovers, is remembered in this obituary.
LaVell Williams, who mentored a generation of music lovers in Detroit and around the world, died peacefully early Saturday, October 27th, at 12:03 am at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak surrounded by loved ones. He was 51 and a longtime resident of Roseville, Michigan.
LaVell Paul Williams was born 1967 in Pensacola, Florida but raised in Detroit, moving to Michigan when he was three. Music became a calling for him early on. He sang in his church choir as well choirs in the Detroit Public Schools. He graduated from Cooley High School in 1984 and went on to take courses at Center for Creative Studies (now the College for Creative Studies) in Detroit for photography.
Beginning in 1997 he spent over thirteen years working for the world-renowned retail music store Record Time in Roseville and Ferndale. There he became a hub of Detroit’s music community, especially the area’s dance music artists and fans, who trusted him with recommendations, feedback, and advice. During this time he was also a singer and songwriter for various recording labels and artists and regularly worked and attended Detroit’s Memorial Day techno festivals from their beginning. After leaving Record Time, he worked for Kasco Corporation of Royal Oak.
Throughout his life he gave back to various communities he cared for. He volunteered at the Michigan Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, AIDS Walk Detroit, and Pride. In 2000 LaVell volunteered to be a part of the AIDS Quilt at Hart Plaza, opening up quilts with the families of those lost. Later in life he became an advocate for arts and music preservation, joining the Friends of the E. Azalia Hackley Foundation at the Detroit Public Library before helping found Detroit Sound Conservancy, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to preserving Detroit’s musical legacies across all genres in 2012.
In a 2014 interview with Detroit Sound Conservancy, he described the value of the arts to his life. “I don’t know what it’s like not to be musical,” he said. “I’ve always loved music. I’ve always loved poetry. I think one breeds the other. It’s been feeding me ever since—I can’t and I don’t live without it. It’s necessary. It’s what I love to do. It’s what I’m about.”
“I’ve always loved music. I’ve always loved poetry. I think one breeds the other. It’s been feeding me ever since — I can’t and I don’t live without it. It’s necessary. It’s what I love to do. It’s what I’m about.”
He is survived by his sister Ladonna and brother Al Davis, longtime friend Trish Kinsey, an aunt Carolyn Debrow of Detroit, son Robert (and Shembra) Erxleben and their son-to-be Robert Paul Erxleben, Shantilvia and James Davis and family of Detroit, Renae Debrow of Detroit, Marcia Mapp-Mims Detroit Michigan. He also leaves behind a host of friends, colleagues, and well wishers. He is predeceased by his Mother and Grandmother.
The family would like to thank his friends and the community for their support and love. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 3rd from at 4 to 6:30 pm at 1xRun, 2905 Beaufait Street, Detroit, Michigan 48207 followed by a life celebration dance party at The Works, 1846 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48216 from 7 to 10 pm.
You may also read LaVell’s entry at Michigan LGBTQ Remember here.
Edited to include video 23 February 2019
Edited to include Michigan LGBTQ Remember link on 10 September 2020.