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March 20, 2007

Sex Machine

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

YouTube gift for the day: Jackie Wilson doing a switched-on version of his classic "Lonely Teardrops." Did that man have a lot of sly but robust elegance or what?

If only I could wear a pompadour and a suit with a tenth the conviction and panache ... I don't know that I've ever seen a performer squeeze such a lot of studliness out of such minimalistic dancing. And, hey, go-go dancers sure provide a nice frame for a singer, don't they?

Some biographical facts about Jackie Wilson, which I picked up from Wikipedia:

  • He was a Detroit native.
  • He converted to Judaism as an adult.
  • A notorious womanizer, he was once shot and wounded by a girlfriend who was jealous that he was heading home with a girlfriend of Sam Cooke's.
  • Wilson had a massive heart attack when he was 41. He lived for only nine more years, and in a mostly-vegetative state.

His expenses during this sad final stretch were paid for by Elvis Presley.



posted by Michael at March 20, 2007


Yes, its good to be reminded that those old performers were more than their records. Wilson most especially, as he was a rather inconsistent artist on wax.

I've always wondered why white guys just can't seem to do soul. By this I don't mean they can't write, play, or produce soul: Mann and Weil, Leiber and Stoller, Phil Spector, Dan Penn, Steve Cropper, Duane Allman and the whole Muscle Shoals session players give the lie to that. (Not to mention great songs from artists from Simon & Garfunkel to Elton John to David Bowie.) But groups like The Clash and UB40 are far more convincing as reggae artists, and The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers, Janis Joplin, The Animals and Led Zepplin are far more convincing at the blues than any white artist has ever been as a soul singer. (Possible exception: The Righteous Brothers.) And there have been lots and lots of great white jazz musicians. Still, even when an white artist comes up with a great soul song, like Paul Simon with Bridge Over Troubled Waters and Loves Me Like a Rock, or The Clash with Every Little Bit Hurts and Train in Vain, or David Bowie's Golden Years, something just seems to be missing in the performance. Even singers like Elton John, Joe Cocker and Dusty Springfield, great as they are, don't quite have it. I can't imagine them doing anything like what Wilson does here.

Posted by: Thursday on March 20, 2007 6:00 PM

I was going to bring up Dusty Springfield, but then you did. She *does* have it vocally, she is as great as any female soul singer you can name. She was too introverted to put on this kind of performance, but then so was Billie Holiday, and you're not going to say she lacked soul.

Posted by: MQ on March 22, 2007 3:20 AM

Michael - I knew that Jackie Wilson’s final years were sad, but I had always heard that Michael Jackson, who viewed Wilson as a major inspiration, had paid his medical expenses. By the way, a number of performers helped pay the medical expenses of Mary Wells during her final battle with cancer, but various stories mention varying groups of celebrities as her benefactors.

Johnny Otis, an ethnic Greek, was a formidable R&B performer, and was assumed by many to be a black man.

Roy Head, father of “American Idol” hopeful Sundance Head, could give Jackie Wilson some competition in with respect to dance moves. A couple of examples, courtesy of YouTube:

Thursday - Van Morrison and Joss Stone strike me as being quite soulful.

Posted by: Alec on March 22, 2007 5:20 PM

Doesn't the piano player in this Jackie Wilson video show up as a supporting character in the Kid Creole "Endicott" video that you posted a few days ago? Amazingly, despite the decades that had passed, he seems exactly the same age. Proof for my long held suspicion that not all of us are mortal...eternal archetypes walk among us, seen everyday but not remarked upon!

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 25, 2007 10:17 AM

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