... he died on Feb 12, 2000 when he was 56 years-old.
William "Oliver" Swofford was born in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He began singing as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1960s. He was a member of two music groups — The Virginians and, later, The Good Earth — and was then known as Bill Swofford.
Oliver's July 1969 single "Good Morning Starshine" from the pop/rock musical Hair, reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in August 1969.
In October 1969, Oliver reached #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart with Rod McKuen's ballad "Jean," the theme from the Oscar-winning film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. "Jean" also sold over one million copies, garnering Oliver his second gold disc.
Oliver performed both hits on a number of TV variety shows and specials in the late 1960s, including the Ed Sullivan Show.
|William Oliver Swofford at his home in North Wilkesboro in a 1980 photo.|
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Oliver also had one influential non-charted recording later in 1970: "Light the Way," composed by Eric Carmen. Oliver's last single on pop music charts was his 1971 cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain."
Oliver's producer was Bob Crewe, who also recorded with Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Freddy Cannon, Lesley Gore, Michael Jackson, Bobby Darin, Roberta Flack, Peabo Bryson and Patti LaBelle. In 1971, Oliver and Crewe separated over artistic difference. Oliver preferred a simpler folk sound while Crewe's preferred orchestrated musical arrangements.
Resuming his singing career under the name Bill Swofford, Oliver toured hundreds of college campuses in the eastern and southern United States in 1976 and 1977.
Swofford did not record any more hit records. A short-lived attempt to team up with Karen Carpenter in the late 1970s was unsuccessful. In 1983, People magazine ran a feature article on Swofford, describing him as a happily married father who kept his distance from the music industry, selling real estate. He was later a business manager for a pharmaceutical company in Louisiana.
In the late 1990s, Swofford was diagnosed with cancer. He died at the age of 54 in Shreveport, Louisiana.
On June 4, 2009, a resolution was introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly honoring Oliver.