Jackie Wilson rivaled James Brown as one of the most dynamic performers of his generation, exuding a sexy athleticism capable of working his audience into a frenzy. He was also one of the most versatile vocalists in the rock era, ranging from the soulful, gritty style of a Wilson Pickett to the smooth, gospel-inflected pop associated with Sam Cooke and Clyde McPhatter.
Born and raised in a blue collar section of Detroit, Wilson would win his Golden Gloves weight division in the late 1940s. After high school, he began singing in local nightclubs. In 1953, Wilson joined Billy Ward and His Dominoes as a replacement for McPhatter, who’d departed to found the Drifters. During his tenure the group recorded "St. Therese of the Roses" (Decca 29933; 1956), which reached number thirteen on the pop charts.
Wilson went solo in late 1956, signing with Brunswick Records. Between 1957-1972
he recorded forty-nine charting singles, including the Top Ten hits "Lonely
Teardrops" (Brunswick 55105; 1958), "Night" (Brunswick 55166;
1960), "Alone At Last" (Brunswick 55170; 1960), "My Empty Arms"
(Brunswick 55201; 1961), "Baby Workout" (Brunswick 55239; 1963), and
"(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" (Brunswick 55336;
1967). When record sales dropped off, he was relegated to playing the oldies
circuit. On September 25, 1975, as part of the Dick Clark revue at the Latin
Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, he suffered a major heart attack while singing
"Lonely Teardrops." Emerging from a coma with considerable brain damage,
he never performed again. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
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