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Jackie Wilson

Jackie Wilson was one of the most important agents of black pop's transition from R&B into soul. In terms of vocal power (especially in the upper register), few could outdo him; he was also an electrifying on-stage showman. He was a consistent hitmaker from the mid-'50s through the early '70s, although never a crossover superstar. His reputation isn't quite on par with Ray Charles, James Brown, or Sam Cooke, however, because his records did not always reflect his artistic genius. Indeed, there is a consensus of sorts among critics that Wilson was something of an underachiever in the studio, due to the sometimes inappropriately pop-based material and arrangements that he used.

Wilson was well-known on the R&B scene before he went solo in the late '50s. In 1953 he replaced Clyde McPhatter in Billy Ward & the Dominoes, one of the top R&B vocal groups of the '50s. Although McPhatter was himself a big star, Wilson was as good as or better than the man whose shoes he filled. Commercially, however, things took a downturn for the Dominoes in the Wilson years, although they did manage a Top 20 hit with "St. Therese of the Roses" in 1956. Elvis Presley was one of those who was mightily impressed by Wilson in the mid-'50s; he can be heard praising Jackie's on-stage cover of "Don't Be Cruel" in between-song banter during the Million Dollar Quartet session in late 1956.

Wilson would score his first big R&B (and small pop) hit in late 1956 with the brassy, stuttering "Reet Petite," which was co-written by an emerging Detroit songwriter named Berry Gordy Jr. Gordy would also help write a few other hits for Jackie in the late '50s, "To Be Loved," "Lonely Teardrops," "That's Why (I Love You So)," and "I'll Be Satisfied"; they also crossed over to the pop charts, "Lonely Teardrops" making the Top Ten. Most of these were upbeat, creatively arranged marriages of pop and R&B that, in retrospect, helped set the stage both for '60s soul and for Gordy's own huge pop success at Motown. The early Gordy-Wilson association has led some historians to speculate how much differently (and better) Jackie's career might have turned out had he been on Motown's roster instead of the Brunswick label.

In the early '60s, Wilson maintained his pop stardom with regular hit singles that often used horn arrangements and female choruses that have dated somewhat badly, especially in comparison with the more creative work by peers such as Charles and Brown from this era. Wilson also sometimes went into out-and-out operatic pop, as on "Danny Boy" and one of his biggest hits, "Night" (1960). At the same time, he remained capable of unleashing a sweaty, up-tempo, gospel-soaked number: "Baby Workout," which fit that description to a T, was a number five hit for him in 1963. It's true that you have to be pretty selective in targeting the worthwhile Wilson records from this era; 1962's At the Copa, for instance, has Jackie trying to combine soul and all-around entertainment, and not wholly succeeding with either strategy. Yet some of his early Brunswick material is also fine uptown soul; not quite as earthy as some of his fans would have liked him to sound, no doubt, but worth hearing.

Wilson was shot and seriously wounded by a female fan in 1961, though he made a recovery. His career was more seriously endangered by his inability to keep up with changing soul and rock trends. Not everything he did in the mid-'60s is totally dismissible; "No Pity (In the Naked City)," for instance, is something like West Side Story done uptown soul style. In 1966, his career was briefly revived when he teamed up with Chicago soul producer Carl Davis, who had been instrumental in the success of Windy City performers like Gene Chandler, Major Lance, and Jerry Butler. Davis successfully updated Wilson's sound with horn-heavy arrangements, getting near the Top Ten with "Whispers," and then making number six in 1967 with "Higher and Higher." And that was really the close of Wilson's career as either a significant artist or commercial force, although he had some minor chart entries through the early '70s.

While playing a Dick Clark oldies show at the Latin Casino in New Jersey in September 1975, Wilson suffered an on-stage heart attack while singing "Lonely Teardrops." He lapsed into a coma, suffering major brain damage, and was hospitalized until his death in early 1984. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

One of the great R&B masters for sure. Anytime, anyplace Higher and Higher comes on, I just have to smile.
Michael Jackson always said he was influenced by Jackie Wilson and James Brown!
I got the chance to see Jackie Wilson at The Apollo Theater when I was a pre teen! This man was dancing all over the stage!! He was incredible. I am so glad I got to see him before he passed. Mr. Dynamite for sure!
Mr. Excitement !
The Dick Panthers are better.
What Jackie Wilson went through AFTER the heart attack,the brain damage, & being pretty much thrown away while family members fought over his money is a heartbreakin g story.....
Shouldn't happen 2 a POLITICIAN, much less somebody whose music meant so much 2 so many of us who loved him!!!
csloftus
Pandora, You are amazing!!!! Keep it up. Love my selection today. I also like the Bio and words to the songs. I will be back and will tell my fam and friends. Blessings
Higher and Higher keeps lifting me higher and higher, still.
simply great one one of the greatest of all time
Loved his music 60years ago and still do! Simple story middle grade manager held him down-listen to his 5 greatest hits and tell me who covered that range in music history. Gifted by God!!!!!
bevbevan
Mister Excitement from whom a little dweeb named Michael Jackson stole his routine
Jackie. Wow
d_owen
this guy could dance his a** off one of the greatest performers of all time
Is cool
Only one thing to say. Damm he was great
lisad196133
love all your music RIP baby.
"We made a toaster dance with it".
Jw doing his thing.;
Keep it up, quench my desire...
Say you will..oh yeah.
sprenticejr
Yes, the story surrounding his death is a definitely a sinister mystery, which also had impacted his earlier career. His talent was equal to Michael Jackson's and MJ acknowledged as much at a Grammy ceremony. Presley dubbed him the Black Elvis. I never saw him live but was blown away by his few appearances on TV, some of which you can see on Youtube. No singer today comes close to his vocal or performance ability on a bare stage.
Love this song
Sorry I never got a chance to see him perform I heard he was as dynamic as James Brown . I was too young to be familiar with his early stuff , , but Higher and Higher remains a favorite .

This bio did not mention the rumors about him being harmed or killed by people to keep him quiet about payola , or some Mob related thing . Did I imagine hearing that ?.
pavanna101
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works
Been singing for lots of years I remember him in my days thats few years ago like in he 60's.
Jackie Wilson>>>big in Pittsburgh but not appreciated in many other places in his time
I always wondered why he wasn't bigger considering his vocal ability.
lbosby23
No one and I do mean no one! Could sing Danny Boy like this man. Unbelievable vocal range and a great performer. He was truly the total package.
Not only could he sing, but he could really dance up a storm too. He was a real performer.
Time cut short, great voice and sound will be misses.
xamanda06
I always think of ghostbusters when I hear this.. Good song
Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher was originally written by my Uncle Gary Jackson, he sent in the song and never copywrited it and I see his name on the credits on some movies at the end.
I wish I could of met my father i n law
To bad I couldn't meet my father in law.his children miss him buches.and they live him so...he was the sh it
bevbevan
deekelley120 : Absolutely Right On!!! A major talent taken away from us - and his family - far too soon.
Jackie Wilson GREAT!!
Jackie Wilson is still my dad's dude!! To this day (to let my dad tell it) no male singer of today comes close to match all the talent that Jackie Wilson had!!! Al Green comes in 2nd to Jackie on my dad's list! ♥♫
follow me and will follow back!!
I JUST LOVE THIS MUSIC SINCE I WAS ABOUT 5 YEARS OLD.
jackie wilson had the best voice
Dont read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on atleast 5 songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and your lover's name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works!
Jackie Wilson is my dad's FAVORITE singing artist of ALL TIME!! Whud up JB!!!! ♥♥♥ ♫♫♫
Jackie he was and still is one of the best singers. and if he had lived would have been the greatest love you Jackie ,i know you are walking around heaven singing all of your hits and gospel , Love you still. The Rose
When I was in a college drama class one of our exercises was to do a lip-sync in front of an audience. I chose Jackie Wilson's Lonely Teardrops. I got a standing ovation but I'm pretty sure it was for Jackie's singing not my buffoonery. 100% Soul.
Mix me another drink if you please. This is the right stuff.
I wanna party with Jackie Wilson...Va manos...
nycgurl77xo1
Sometimes i wish i was born on the 60s just love the Golding times music this days is basura
I love old songs like this from the 60's to the 80's I love all the music and I'm 15 haha
He know he was beautiful... . . . . .
extreme talent!!!
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