JACKIE WILSON / “Lonely Teardrops”


Source: The Titan Of Soul (Edsel Records - 1998)

Mr. Excitement! That’s what they called him. This is the guy who set the standard for what would later be known as “Soul Singers”—especially those who could both sing and dance.
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Born June 9, 1934 in Detroit, Jackie Wilson defined the genre to such an extent that few, if any, of his contemporaries wanted to follow him on stage. Jackie had two talents: singing and athletics—he definitely could have been a major voice as an opera singer and possibly could have been a contender as a pugilist. To say he was a knock-out entertainer is an understatement.

Jackie pioneered moves that made Elvis Presley envious. The liner notes quote Elvis talking about Jackie. “…he hit that ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and he was tryin’ so hard ‘till he got better, boy. Wooh! Man, he sang that song…I went back four nights straight and heard that guy do that. Man, he sung hell outta that song, and I was under the table, lookin’ at him. Git him off! Git him off!” Elvis was not known to consider any other singer better them himself, but he gave it up for Jackie Wilson. And why not, even in his wildest dreams, Elvis knew he could neither out sing nor out dance Jackie Wilson.

Jackie’s performance was so powerful that he could work his magic in Las Vegas hotel or in a Mississippi juke joint. He could charm the jewels off a crowd at the Waldorf Astoria and then head uptown and make the patrons swoon at the famed (and infamously hard-to-please) Apollo Theatre.

In the extensive liner notes to The Titan Of Soul, producer/musician Billy Vera describes a Jackie Wilson performance: “To fully appreciate Jackie, you would have to see him, twirling his mohair suit jacket above his head (he has already perspired clean through his black, custom-made shirt, which has ripped the length of his back), jumping up, landing in a split, with still enough breath to hit a note so high only a dog can hear it. In a micro-second he’s pulled himself up by his own collar, done a 360-degree spin, kicked the mike stand, and pulled it back by its cord so it lands in this right hand. The jacket ends up behind him (after he’s teased the first six rows with it), and a few Elvis hiccups later, he’s on his back, his head hanging over the edge of the stage.”
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Jackie Wilson was so good that James Brown even took a backseat to Jackie in his prime—I remember one amusing bit of high school gossip that declared that James Brown was going to change his name to Jamesetta and marry Jackie Wilson. For me, however, it was not the dancing but that voice. Jackie could sing anything and inject it with soul. He actually recorded opera as well as ethnic songs such as “My Yiddish Momme” and “Danny Boy” (which, incidentally, was Wilson’s first single and which he re-recorded twice more, achieving hit status with a 1965 version); he expertly did show tunes and Hollywood; reveled in the blues and whooped it up on the Beatles. He could—and did—do it all.

“Doggin’ Around” sticks with me because of the pleading menace in his voice. He is so distraught he threatens to do bodily harm to himself, and you believe him. “Doggin’ Around” is a down and out blues, but then there’s “Danny Boy,” even though its origins are a long way from the blues, it became a signature song for Wilson.

A few weeks back we were considering the work of Louis Armstrong. Jackie sings like Pop’s horn is in Wilson’s throat. The sheer power of his voice, the clarity of the high notes and the irresistible rhythmic attack.

The raw energy of a piece like “Workout” that mixes a jazzy big band arrangement with screaming and shouting rhythm and blues is a perfect illustration of Jackie’s versatility, especially when you compare the shouting intensity of “Workout” with the subtle vocal gymnastics on the Hoagy Carmichael standard “Stardust,” on which Jackie alternates between note perfect interval jumps and soulful slides and melismas that would become the stock and trade of Soul singers. The outright moaning of “No Pity” contains elements that would reappear time and time again among singers who followed this titan. Just one small example: who would think to look for Michael Jackson’s falsetto yelps in a Jackie Wilson performance? Well, listen closely to “No Pity.”
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Of course, some will argue that it’s a stretch to jump from Jackie Wilson to Michael Jackson, but I reply, not if you understand the Berry Gordy connection. The what? I’m not just talking Motown in a generic geographic sense but rather deep, deep connections. Prior to starting Motown Records, Berry Gordy made his mark as a songwriter. Moreover, some of Berry’s first major hits were songs such as “To Be Loved” (#7 on the R&B charts) and “Lonely Teardrops” (#1 on the R&B charts), both of which Berry co-wrote specifically for Jackie Wilson.
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Unfortunately for Wilson he never signed with a major label and therefore never had the marketing muscle behind his work that many lesser artists received, and as a result many of today’s music lovers are oblivious to the talent and importance of Jackie Wilson.

On September 29, 1975 while touring with Dick Clark’s Good Ol’ Rock & Roll Revue, Jackie Wilson was stricken by a massive heart attack. He was performing “Lonely Teardrops” when he fell and hit his head, hard. Although he hung on for a little over eight years in and out of comas, he never fully recovered and died on January 21, 1984. A tragic end to an energetic and exciting singer who helped ushered in the Soul music era.

—Kalamu ya Salaam


You mentioned James Brown       

I noticed that you mentioned James Brown. I didn’t hear any Michael Jackson similarities, but I definitely heard the James Brown thing. That kind of quivering trailing off of the held notes on the ballads is something I always thought of as a James Brown trademark, so I guess I learned something.

Also, you’re right about today’s music lovers being oblivious to Jackie Wilson. I recognized a couple of the bigger hits (“Lonely Teardrops” and “Doggin’ Around”), but I’ve never heard the rest. The thing is, I know the music of a lot of Jackie’s contempories. Folks like Louis Jordan, Chuck Berry, The Coasters, etc.—Jackie’s music sounds like it’s of the same era, but for whatever reason, he’s not as well known.

—Mtume ya Salaam

         Listen again        

It first occurs at the 49-second mark into “Pity,” and then at the 1:41-second  mark, Jackie does that little falsetto catch in his throat twice, as if to make sure we catch it. It is not as obvious as when Michael Jackson does it but nevertheless it is there and Jackie was the first that I know of to do it.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 10th, 2006 at 12:24 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


15 Responses to “JACKIE WILSON / “Lonely Teardrops””

hardCore Says:
September 14th, 2006 at 12:07 am

no pac this week? travesty!


Lucy Says:
September 16th, 2006 at 1:29 am

Everything that was written is so true. Reet Petite was not mentioned even though it was the first song that was written for Jackie by Berry. The story goes Berry owed money but he had an idea to open a record company since he owed nearly everyone he went to Jackie with the song the song made him the money he need to open Motown so if there was no Jackie maybe there would be no Motown. And also the connection to Michael goes further when Michael was just starting with Motown he would be in the back of the theatre watching Jackie dancing and admiring he’s shoes. There is a book called Lonely Teardrop The Jackie Wilson Story by Tony Douglas. I’m so happy that people out there Love Jackie Wilson So Much but not nearly as much as I do.


Lee Boyall Says:
February 13th, 2007 at 5:00 am

Lucy, I love him more than you, so there! I find it astonishing that more is not written about Jackie Wilson. This man was simply the greatest and most versatile singer of all time. After 20 years of listening day in day out to this man, I still can’t get enough. Much as I love James Brown, Sam Cooke + Elvis Presley and many others, NONE of them compare remotely to Jackie Wilson. When is someone to release a well-deserved DVD showcase of this man’s TV appearances. Yes, it won’t compare to his live shows, but it would still be SENSATIONAL. To all Jackie’s fans out there… we know who the greatest is, spread the word about Jackie as I do.


nails nathan Says:
March 15th, 2007 at 7:02 am

truly he was the best of all time..saw his perf 100′s of time ..helped pick out the material for his suits made in phila and he was the first & only person to get me a job at talent agency..he was one sweet friendly person who helped many without asking for anything in return…one hell of a great guy on and off the stage but keep your girlfriend under your eye at all times…he did love the honeys…may he sing nightly in the heaven above probably closing the show…


Tony Douglas Says:
April 8th, 2007 at 12:25 am

Great to read more about the GREAT Jackie Wilson. I wrote his biography and had the honor to meet and interview many of his family and friends.
Drop me a line if you care to know more.

I have ALL his recordings includind some never released before.


Gregory Cooper Says:
December 28th, 2008 at 10:42 am

Dear Tony,
You and Doug Carter author of the “Black Elvis” Book, are the only authors thus far to attempt to chronicle the life and importance of my musical hero, the late great, Jackie Wilson. I am forever appreciative. Jackie’s story should be made into a motion picture. His story has all the makings of a true Rock Bio. My admiration for the man runs pretty deep, like the millions who love Elvis. Please check my website and bio page. My last meeting with Jackie was at the Medford facility in New Jersey. I have a few stories that I would like to share with you. Also being an opening act for many R&B legends. I would like to chronicle my experiences into a book. I am almost certain you could give me some insight into the project. Looking forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Gregory Cooper

The hardest working unknown man in show business.
Contact Info.:
e-mail: http://www.mr.soulman20@yahoo.com
http://www.myspace.com/theofficialgregcooper
bio:www.thegentlemenofstyle.com
Home # (301) 856-4321
Cell #(202) 716-2477


Ros Says:
December 31st, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Where can I find the Movie DVD “From Day One”? It’s about the life and times of Jackie Wilson. I think it was put out by his grandson/Jackie Wilson estate. I can’t seem to find out where to but it.
I have also been looking for good well prepared videos of Jackie Wilson. Especially the “Baby Work out Shindig” I checked on Ebay and Amazon and I can’t find the movie or the videos.
Thanks,
Rosalind


marlene johnson Says:
February 28th, 2009 at 5:49 am

why tell me why on one has but a dvd out of mr jackie wilson live on stage doing his thing come on i see almost every bady but mr jackie wilson


Cliff Brown Says:
April 10th, 2009 at 4:49 pm

I’M a child of the 80s in to hip hop never into the soul until stationed in England and listened to Northern Soul. It shook my foundations!! then I went to a dance listened to this do i love you Lonely Teardrops -Jackie Wilson changed my life so fantastic. ” Thanks Jackie ” we moved to Texas and going to do Northern Soul Here ( Why Not)


LaMarr Jone Says:
June 3rd, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Elvis gave good credit to Jackie Wilson, but not according to the interpretation you’ve injected in this article. Actually, they were contemporaries (7 months apart in age), and I knew them both. To say that Jackie would out-do Elvis is not accurate in what Jackie stated: “A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man’s music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied from Elvis.” Jackie Wilson at http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/jackie_wilson_elvis_presley.shtml

Elvis was the seminal music event that forever changed rock ‘n roll, whether you want that to be so…or not. And frankly, he gave many a rockabilly opportunity for others to develop their style, and especially opened the door for black artists. And most of the success of any black artist depended upon one fact…young white kids buying the records and tuning in on the radio.

It’s yet another “great black myth” to say Elvis stole his music from the black’s, along with saying all Jazz is black in origin. All you have to do is listen to the hot jazz of France of the 1920′s to know that that canard isn’t true.

Hey, all music works together and evolves, and many have benefitted from these changes in music over millenia.

All in all, I can appreciate Jackie Wilson’s music in it’s entirety, I love it. No one should make specious claims about any other artist, especially for racist reasons, which is the most common and deplorable one. It’s time for black people to grow up and quit the revisionist history gig. Enjoy what “is”, and don’t start some freakin’ fiction. LaMarr


LaMarr Jone Says:
June 3rd, 2009 at 12:23 pm

BTW, just check out the website I’ve listed above, and see who copied who in hair style!! It sure appears that Jackie did his hair like Elvis, and you can’t deny that color picture. Compare it to the early pictures you’ve got here showing Jackie, and you’ll understand. In some pictures, you’ll see Jackie with a big wave to his hair, just like Elvis. Doubtful that Jackie’s hair was alway straight, and like so many black artists, they straightened their hair to look more white. It’s a shame it was that way, but don’t deny it.

And that jacket Jackie is wearing…say it isn’t so…but it sure looks more like Elvis’ style, country-rockabilly.

Elvis and Jackie were good friends, and they didn’t have any problems with the other, so again, why create some fiction of who was the “better”? They were both great successes in their own right, appreciate that and move on. LaMarr


marlene johnson Says:
June 16th, 2009 at 10:14 am

why there are no DVD OF MR JACKIE WILSON
B.K. S THE BLACK ELVIS OR ISIT THAT HE WAS BETTER THAN ELVIS JUST ASKING


marlene johnson Says:
June 16th, 2009 at 10:16 am

I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE SOMR OF MRJACKIE WILSON DVDS


Michael Says:
August 7th, 2009 at 12:55 am

Michael Jackson was a Jackie Wilson fan and its very evident in some of his dance moves that originated with Jackie, Jackie Wilson was way ahead of this time, one of the best talents to grace a stage. RIP Jackie and Michael


nluvr2@hotmail.com Says:
July 14th, 2010 at 11:03 pm

elvis never saw or heard of jackie wilson, before april, 1956. by then, elvis had been performing on stage for almost 2 years. he had already developed his dynamic style. if he copied some of jackie’s moves, it was later in his career. it was jackie imitating elvis in vegas in 1956. that’s what tickled elvis, so much. they were both great artists!


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