Jackie Wilson

Thirty years after it had firstly entered the charts, Jackie Wilson’s “Reet Petite” was brought to the listening pleasure of a new generation, in countries such as Great Britain and Australia, in 1986. As it was, indeed, a posthumous hit, the video clip featured rubbery figures ‘singing’ to Jackie’s original recording.

Jack Leroy Wilson was born, in Detroit, in June of 1934. His father, an alcoholic, introduced him to alcohol when he was still a boy. “Jackie” was to spend two periods in juvenile detention and it was during his second stint that he was introduced to the sport of boxing.

Nonetheless, his first love was singing. Jackie, although he was not particularly religious, began attending church for it gave him the opportunity to sing gospel. He became a member in a succession of groups before, in 1953, Billy Ward sought to recruit him into The Dominoes. This group had already spent fourteen weeks atop the rhythm and blues charts, in 1951, with what was to prove to be by far its largest and most controversial success, “Sixty Minute Man”, and so Jackie viewed the opportunity to join it with relish.

This vacancy had been created because Clyde McPhatter was leaving the group to form his own: The Drifters. Prior to his departure, Clyde schooled Jackie on becoming the vocalist that Billy wanted him to be.

Jackie Wilson was blessed with one of the most versatile voices in popular music and, therefore, it came as no surprise when, in 1957, he embarked upon a career as a solo performer. It is almost unbelievable that this same person is singing “Reet Petite” and “Lonely Teardrops”, as is also singing “Night”. “Night”, is a quasi-operatic ballad based upon a classical piece by the French composer and pianist, Saint-Saens.

His dynamism and athleticism on stage endeared his performances to many of those who were fortunate enough to witness them and it was little wonder when these led him to be dubbed ‘Mr. Excitement’. Jackie enjoyed a long association with Brunswick Records and was equally at home singing a wide variety of material, at varying tempos.


In 1959, he appeared in the film, ‘Go Johnny, Go’. Jackie was cast alongside a plethora of musical stars of rock and roll. These included Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran, Jimmy Clanton, and The Cadillacs.


During 1966, Jackie moved from New York to record in Chicago. It was here that he became exposed to some refreshingly different songwriters. Pop hits, such as “Whispers (Gettin’ Louder)”, “I Get The Sweetest Feeling” and “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher”, emanated from this move.

In September of 1975, Jackie suffered a heart attack whilst performing on stage in Camden, New Jersey. As he collapsed, he struck his head so severely that he was to remain in a virtual coma until his by then merciful death, at the age of just forty-nine, in January of 1984.

In 1977, Rita Coolidge released a cover, titled “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher And Higher” and although it recorded sales in excess of Jackie’s original, music by then had mellowed and , to me, it lacks the vitality expected from one describing the ecstasy of another’s love. Therefore, it is Jackie’s original that is named in the list of my favourite recordings, located in the suggested playlists.

Australian rocker, Jimmy Barnes, also revived “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher”. It is contained on his album, ‘Soul Deep’, which was released in 1991.

Welsh rocker, Shakin’ Stevens, a performer who built a career upon his revival of hits, took “I’ll Be Satisfied” into the British Top Ten, in 1982.

Sam Cooke

Although he was only on this earth for a relatively short time, Sam Cooke’s music was to influence artists for decades after his passing. Rod Stewart was once quoted as saying that for a period of two years he listened to no other recordings than those of Sam Cooke.

Sam Cooke, in some quarters is looked upon as the founder of soul, while in others one of its pioneers. As with other African-American artists of his era he began by singing gospel. His father, a Baptist minister, had taken the family from the state of Mississippi to the city of Chicago, Illinois, when Sam was a child.

A writer of his own material, Sam surely could not have envisaged a more impressive beginning than when his first hit, “You Send Me”, went all of the way to No.1, in 1957. A long succession of successful releases followed, with him even charting posthumously with hits such as “Shake” and the highly emotive “A Change Is Gonna Come”, in the midst of Civil Rights’ Movement.


Controversy still surrounds his death in a hotel, in Los Angeles, in December of 1964. I saw actual footage in a recent documentary, on Sam’s life, in which the manageress is seen to claim that she had fired up to thirty bullets into him, in an act of self-defence. Uncertainty even exists as to his actual age at the time of his obit, with me having seen it listed as twenty-nine and on another occasion, thirty-three.

Briton Craig Douglas did such a superb job of covering Sam’s “Only Sixteen” that, in 1959, it went all of the way to the top of the British charts. Dr. Hook revived this song in 1976. The British group, Herman’s Hermits, successfully revived “Wonderful World”; Rod Stewart, “Twisting The Night Away”; the Australian band, The Groove, “Soothe Me”; The Spinners, “Cupid”; and country star, Mickey Gilley, my favourite track of Sam’s, “Bring It On Home To Me”. Perhaps the greatest homage to Sam Cooke was paid by the incredibly talented Cat Stevens, when he departed from his own material to record “Another Saturday Night”.


The names of more recordings by Sam Cooke can be found in the selected playlists. Whilst there, why not peruse the list of my favourite recordings? I shall be updating this list from time to time.

Billy Ocean

Billy Ocean was born as Leslie Sebastian Charles, in January of 1950, on the island of Trinidad. His family moved to live in London when he was eight years of age. There, the West Indian rhythms, to which he had been exposed, became influenced by the music of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals and American artists such as Sam Cooke, Ben E. King and Otis Redding.

Against his parents’ wishes, Billy became apprenticed to a tailor. He also began to learn how to play the piano. This eventually led him to perform in British clubs at night. The selection of his stage name was inspired by the film, ‘Ocean’s 11’, which starred Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Although Billy was to sample success with his debut single, “Love Really Hurts Without You”, in 1976, it was not until 1984 and the release of the catchy “Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)”, that he was propelled to global stardom. The album, ‘Suddenly’, was marketed to coincide with the release of the latter single. This was followed by the albums, ‘Love Zone’, in 1986, and ‘Tear Down These Walls’, in 1988.

The single, “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going”, became the theme to the highly successful film, ‘Jewel Of The Nile’. More hits followed, including “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” and “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”, ensuring that the name, Billy Ocean, is there among those on the list of the most prominent, solo male artists of the 1980s.

The names of more hits by Billy Ocean can be located in the suggested playlists. Whilst you are there, why not peruse the list of my favourite recordings? I shall be adding to it from time to time.

Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett’s voice epitomised soul. A voice honed in travelling gospel groups; a voice that would cultivate what became known as the Scream.

Wilson was born in rural Alabama, in March of 1941. He was the fourth of eleven children whose future was totally dependant upon the crop, cotton.

In 1955, Wilson Pickett moved to Detroit where he lived with his father. It was there that he met the group, The Falcons, which contained Eddie Floyd among its members. Eddie was to write and record “Knock On Wood”, in 1966, the same song that Amii Stewart was to take to the top of the charts, in 1979, at the height of the disco era.

The Falcons modelled itself upon Hank Ballard and The Midnighters. Hank Ballard was to pen and record “The Twist”, in 1959, which, in 1960, Chubby Checker covered, and, in doing so, launched an international dance sensation.

“You’re So Fine” and “I Found A Love” were hits for The Falcons but Wilson was already aiming to become a solo artist. This aim, he thought, would come to fruition when he was signed to Atlantic Records, however, things did not work out, and it was not until 1965 when he moved to Memphis, to record in the Stax studio, that his goal began to take shape. “In The Midnight Hour” and “634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)” were among the tracks recorded there.

That following year, Wilson began recording in the famed Muscle Shoals studios, in Alabama. “Land Of 1000 Dances” topped the soul charts and rose to No.6 on the pop charts.


Wilson Pickett became an inductee into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, in 1991. His career received another boost from the film, ‘The Commitments’, in which he was viewed as the personification of soul. The film and its subsequent soundtrack introduced a new generation to songs such as “Mustang Sally”.

Wilson died from cardiac arrest in January of 2006, at the age of sixty-four.

The names of more recordings by Wilson Pickett can be found in the suggested playlists. While there, you may like to peruse the list of my favourite recordings. I shall be adding to it from time to time.

Brook Benton

Benjamin Franklin Peay was born in Camden, South Carolina, in September of 1931. Vocally, he was coached by his father, who also engendered in him the patience he would need to display if he were to succeed as a singer in a professional capacity.

Brook Benton moved to New York, in 1948, at the age of seventeen, where he sang as a member of one gospel group before, three years later, joining another. He briefly sang on recordings, in 1955, that were directed by, the now legendary, Quincy Jones, who was twenty-two at the time.

Nonetheless, fame proved to be elusive, forcing Brook to try his hand at songwriting. He also sang on demonstrations of other writers’ tunes, which was really helpful because it provided him with instant cash. However, it was  to be his songwriting that was to grab the attention of those in the industry.

Firstly, there was “The Stroll”, recorded by the Canadian group, The Diamonds, then, the catchy “A Lover’s Question” by Clyde McPhatter. Buoyed by their success, Brook decided that he, himself, should record another of his own compositions, “It’s Just A Matter Of Time”. It was destined to spend nine weeks at No.1 on the rhythm and blues charts in the first half of 1959 and proved to be the launching pad to Brook’s substantial career as a solo artist.


Brook’s last hit of substance was “Rainy Night In Georgia”, written by Tony Joe White, in 1970. It sold more than a million copies for the soulful baritone.


Brook Benton died in April of 1988, at the relatively young age of fifty-six, from the complications which arose from the contraction of spinal meningitis.

The names of tracks by Brook Benton can be located in the suggested playlist.

The Drifters

Clyde McPhatter had been the leading singer in The Dominoes. When he was no longer wanted by that group, a new male group was formed around his voice: that of tenor. The Drifters, as this new quartet was called, created a driving vocal style as depicted in its first hit, “Money Honey”, in 1953.

Other classic rhythm and blues numbers followed as the musical revolution that was to become known as rock and roll unfolded. “Such A Night”, which was covered by Johnnie Ray, “Honey Love” and “What’Cha Gonna Do” were all prime examples of this new style.

Clyde McPhatter left The Drifters, to pursue a solo career, in 1955, and, over the years, there followed a succession of leading singers that included Johnny Moore, Johnny Lee Williams, Ben E. King — famed for his solo recordings of “Spanish Harlem” and “Stand By Me” — and Rudy Lewis.

The Drifters struggled to make an impression on the charts in 1957 and 1958 before experiencing a golden period that began with “There Goes My Baby”, in 1959, and virtually ended with “Under The Boardwalk” and “Saturday Night At The Movies”, in 1964. These five years also included such hits as “Save The Last Dance For Me”, “On Broadway” — revived by George Benson in 1978 — and “Up On The Roof”.


Although The Drifters’ run of hits ended in its native America in 1966, for whatever reason, the group’s popularity was unexpectedly reborn in Britain between 1972 and 1976. A series of eight entries to the Top 10 on the British singles’ charts during these five years included “Come On Over To My Place”, “Like Sister And Brother”, “Down On The Beach Tonight”, “Kissin’ In The Back Row Of The Movies”, “Can I Take You Home Little Girl”, “There Goes My First Love” and “You’re More Than A Number In My Book”; with “Hello Happiness” just falling short of joining these aforementioned seven hits. The eighth entry was a double-sided single that reissued the mid-Sixties’ recordings, “At The Club” and “Saturday Night At The Movies”.

The names of additional tracks by The Drifters can be found in the suggested playlists.

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