I must’ve seen headlines and links describing the above video for a week before I actually caved and watched it. I thought, here we go again — the lionization of another unfortunate person with a great voice.
Except Ted Williams is different. Unlike Susan Boyle, Williams wasn’t discovered during auditions for a nationally televised talent search. Williams was discovered by a videographer for the Columbus Dispatch (in the video seen above), standing by an off-ramp, holding a sign that read, “I have a God given gift of voice.” And it turns out, he does.
This morning, MSNBC announced it’d hired Ted Williams to record a series of voiceovers for its “Lean Forward” campaign. Add that to his rapidly expanding resume, which includes a Kraft Macaroni & Cheese TV ad and offers from MTV, the NFL and ESPN.
Williams claims to be two-and-a-half years sober after longtime addiction to alcohol and drugs. That’s just the start. He left is ex-wife with five of his kids — one from another woman — while spiraling out of control. His criminal record includes theft, robbery, escape, forgery and drug possession.
Enamored by the homeless man and his overnight ascent, we seem willing to overlook his shady past because — what? He sounds like he could host a rush-hour radio talk show? He has masterful diction, intonation, inflection?
Considering the fast-changing life of Mr. Williams, it’s impossible to say where he’ll be next week. He’s etched his name in viral video lore and he’ll probably land several more high-profile job opportunities.
But is that really redemption? Does that make up for the family he’s abandoned, the people he’s stolen from, the harm he’s inflicted? Overnight fame won’t fix his trail of destruction. That’s something that requires deliberate effort and deep humility.
Until he makes things right, let’s save the banter about inspiration. An overnight rise to fame is impressive, but what’s more inspiring is how someone acts when no one is looking. For Williams to win me over, he needs to make amends, and preferably off camera.