Jackie “Mr Excitement” Wilson was born in Detroit, Michigan. He would go on to be one of the most dynamic performers in R&B and Rock-n-Roll history. Few would match his vocal range. Many critics feel he was an underachiever in the studio, never reaching the massive cross-over hits of the competitive Motown label artists.
He started out as a member of the vocal group, The Dominoes, but went solo in 1957. Songwriters, Berry Gordy Jr and Roguel Davis would write many hits for Wilson, including “To Be Loved”, “That’s Why” and “Lonely Teardrops”. The latter would eventually hit #7 on the US pop charts and establish him as a superstar in the R&B genre. Gordy would go on to form Motown Records after he stopped writing for Wilson.
In 1958 and under new management, Wilson was pushed to attack the rock-n-roll charts. He had his first hits in the 60s with “Doggin’ Around”, “Baby Workout”, “Alone At Last” and “My Empty Arms”. Between 1964 and 1966, Wilson’s career fizzled out until he released “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” which was a #6 smash in 1967. His final hit was in 1972.
Wilson suffered a severe heart attack while on stage. He fell head-first while singing his hit “Lonely Teardrops” and went into a coma that lasted over 8 years until he finally died at the age of 49. Since his death, he has been covered by a veritable cornucopia of artists including Dexys Midnight Runners and The Commodores.
When Michael Jackson tributed his 1984 Grammy for Thriller to Wilson, an interest resurged in the soul great’s catalogue of music. His first single, “Reet Petite” was re-released and went straight to #1 in the UK charts. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
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