Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Happy birthday, “Mr. Excitement”!

One of my favorite rock ‘n’ roll vocalists was born on this day seventy-six years ago—the incomparable Jackie Wilson. A Detroit, Michigan native, Wilson broke into the music business after an abortive career as a boxer and when a version of Danny Boy began to make some noise (recorded by Wilson for jazz great Dizzy Gillespie’s record label Dee Gee Records) he joined Billy Ward’s rhythm-and-blues group The Dominoes, replacing lead singer Clyde McPhatter (who started his own group, The Drifters). Jackie headlined the Dominoes until 1957 when he left to start a solo career…and that’s when, as they say, the hits kept comin’. Among his music smashes: Reet Petite, To Be Loved, Lonely Teardrops, That’s Why (I Love You So), I’ll Be Satisfied, Night, Alone at Last, Doggin’ Around and My Empty Arms. It was while performing Teardrops at a concert in 1975 that Wilson suffered a massive heart attack onstage—which resulted in a coma that lasted until his death in 1984.

If you were to ask any individual at random to name a Wilson song, the response would probably be his 1967 Top Ten pop hit (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher—its ubiquitous presence can be detected in television commercials and in particular, movies like Ghostbusters II (1989), Operation Dumbo Drop (1995), The Bachelor (1999), The Kid (2000) and Death to Smoochy (2002). But here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, our favorite Jackie hit is Baby Workout—which also has an impressive existence on movie soundtracks as varied as Shag (1989), Mermaids (1990), Born Yesterday (1993) and Sweet November (2001). For reasons that shall remain locked in the dusty TDOY archives, I always think of my friend Laura when I hear this song. So let’s give it a spin (I only wish the video quality was a bit better)!

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Bill Crider said...

Truly one of the greats, from his days with Billy Ward and the Dominoes to his solo work. "Lonely Teardrops" is one of my favorites.

The Derelict said...

Always loved Jackie Wilson, particularly his energy when performing live (heh, guess that's why they call him Mister Excitement). I'm partial to "That's Why (I Love You So)" but "Baby Workout" is groovin! Never heard it before, thanks!

VP81955 said...

"Baby Workout" is indeed a masterpiece (it hit the charts at about the same time as James Brown's "Prisoner of love," the closest Soul Brother No. 1 ever got to a Wilson-style record), but let's not forget gems like "A Woman, A Lover, A Friend" and "No Pity In The Naked City."

Incidentally, speaking of superb '60s artists, Jackie DeShannon will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame on Thursday. Heard her on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross today. While I'm glad the Searchers scored with her "When You Walk In The Room," her version should have been the hit; it's sublime.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

While I'm glad the Searchers scored with her "When You Walk In The Room," her version should have been the hit; it's sublime.

Oh, I'm in complete agreement. When You Walk in the Room is one of my very favorite oldies, and Jackie's version is tops.