Jackie Wilson / June 9, 1934 - Jan 21, 1984

An exciting singer and entertainer, Jackie Wilson was a huge star in his day. He was one of the greatest singers the new genre of "soul music" offered in the late '50s/60s. He grew up in the mean streets of Detroit, involved in gangs and drinking at 9. He dropped out of school at 15 to be a boxer and fathered about ten kids before he was married at 17. He quit boxing to be a singer.

His cousins, whom he collaborated with early on, ended up in The Contours and The Four Tops. His talent caught the ear of producer Johnny Otis and Wilson recorded as "Sonny Wilson" for Dizzy Gillespie's Dee-Gee label before joining Billy Ward & His Dominoes (he auditioned as "Shit Wilson"!!), of which he stayed with until '57. He then started collaborating with Berry Gordy, who ended up using the money he earned working with Wilson to start Motown.

Wilson became an icon of killer stage shows, of which James Brown and Michael Jackson were inspired by. Acrobatics, splits, dancing and those pipes! Elvis Presley took note and the two became good friends. In '61 he survived a gunshot to the stomach by a jealous woman. After cutting records with LaVern Baker and the Count Basie orchestra he made his biggest record yet, the still-popular "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Higher And Higher)" in '66. However, the murder of his teenage son in '70 sent Wilson into depression. In '75 he collapsed onstage from a heart attack and was in and out of comatose state for nearly ten years before his death at 49. He is remembered as one of the fathers of soul music.

Tagged: Celebrate Icons, Jackie Wilson, Motown, soul!

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