Jackie Wilson – is the February 22, 2013, featured story selection from the book to celebrate Black History Month.
Long before there was Usher, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye there was the man who only rivaled Elvis Presley and he was know a…s “Mr. Excitement.” Known as a singer and performer, he captured America by his incredible dance moves, high energy and excitement on stage, Wilson was important in the transition of rhythm and blues into soul. He was considered a master showman, one of the most dynamic and influential singers and performers in R&B and rock history. Gaining fame in his early years as a member of the R&B vocal group Billy Ward and His Dominoes, he went solo in 1957 and recorded over 50 hit singles that spanned R&B, pop, soul, doo-wopand easy listening. During a 1975 benefit concert, he collapsed on-stage from a heart attack and subsequently fell into a coma that persisted for nearly nine years until his death in 1984, aged 49.
By this time, he had become one of the most influential artists of his generation. A two-time Grammy Hall of Fame Inductee, Jackie Wilson was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Jackie Wilson #69 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Born Jack Leroy Wilson, Jr. on June 9, 1934 in Detroit, Michigan, the only son of Jack Sr. and Eliza Mae Wilson, as she lost 2 previous children. Eliza Mae was born on The Billups-Whitfield Place in Columbus, Mississippi. As one of Michael Jackson’s greatest influences in entertainment, he honored Jackie Wilson at the 1984 Grammy Awards. Jackson dedicated his Album of the Year Grammy for Thriller to Wilson, saying, “In the entertainment business, there are leaders and there are followers. And I just want to say that I think Jackie Wilson was a wonderful entertainer…I love you and thank you so much.”
Until Jackson’s comments, Wilson’s recording legacy had been dormant for almost a decade. Tarnopol owned Wilson’s recordings due to Brunswick’s separation from MCA, but the label had essentially closed down, essentially deleting Wilson’s considerable recorded legacy. But when Jackson praised Wilson at the Grammys, interest in the legendary singer stirred, and Tarnopol released the first Wilson album (a two-record compilation) in almost nine years through Epic Records, Jackson’s label at the time. Through Tarnopol’s son, Wilson’s music has become more available. In the VH-1 5-part television special, Say It Loud: A Celebration of Black Music in America, fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Smokey Robinson and Bobby Womack both paid tribute to Jackie. Smokey explained that “Jackie Wilson was the most dynamic singer and performer that I think I’ve ever seen. Bobby added “He was the real Elvis Presley, as far as I’m concerned…and Elvis took a lot from him too.”
In his autobiography To Be Loved (named for one of the hit tunes he wrote for Jackie) Motown founder Berry Gordy stated that Jackie Wilson was “The greatest singer I’ve ever heard. The epitome of natural greatness. Unfortunately for some, he set the standard I’d be looking for in singers forever”. Please make you comments and get your book today and read how each story help us to celebrate Black History Month and appreciate America’s current historic cycle. •