William Oliver Swofford (February 22, 1945 – February 12, 2000), known professionally as Oliver, was an American pop singer. 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.
His clean-cut good looks and soaring baritone voice were the perfect vehicle for the up-tempo single entitled "Good Morning Starshine" from the pop/rock musical "Hair", which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1969, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. a month later. Later that fall, a softer, ballad single entitled "Jean", (the theme from the Oscar-winning film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) bested his previous effort by one, reaching #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. Written by longtime beatnik poet Rod McKuen, "Jean" also sold over one million copies, garnering Oliver his second gold disc in as many months. Performing both hits on a number of TV variety shows and specials in the late 1960s, including the Ed Sullivan Show helped propel both songs to the top of the charts.
Later recordings had more modest commercial success however with covers of such songs as "Sunday Mornin'", which peaked at #35 in December 1969, and "Angelica" which stalled at #97 four months later. In addition, his 1970 cover of "I Can Remember", the 1968 hit by James & Bobby Purify missed the Hot 100 but climbed into the top 25 of the Billboard Easy Listening chart in the late summer of that year. Late that fall, Oliver also had one inspirational recording entitled "Light the Way", composed by Eric Carmen and his last single to enter the pop music charts was his 1971 cover of "Early Morning Rain" by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. The song "Bubbled Under" at #124 on May 1st 1971 and also reached the Easy Listening chart a few weeks later.
Producer Bob Crewe also recorded with The Rays, Diane Renay, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Freddy Cannon, Lesley Gore, Michael Jackson, Bobby Darin, Roberta Flack, Peabo Bryson, Patti LaBelle, and Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons as well as his own The Bob Crewe Generation.
As Crewe preferred elaborate, often overly orchestrated musical arrangements and Oliver preferred a simpler folk sound, these "creative differences" led them to part ways in 1971. Resuming the name Bill Swofford, the singer toured hundreds of college campuses in the eastern and southern United States in 1976 and 1977, but a short-lived attempt to team up with Karen Carpenter during the same period proved unsuccessful.
Despite his vocal talents, Swofford was unable to sustain further success on the charts, and 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. Several years later, it was reported that he was engaged as a business manager for a Louisiana pharmaceutical company.
Oliver had a brother, John Swofford, who was first a quarterback, and then athletic director for the UNCCH and became the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1997 as well as Coordinator for the Bowl Championship Series.
In the late 1990s, Swofford was diagnosed with cancer and 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.