January 20, 2006


Soul singer Wilson Pickett dies (BBC, 1/20/06)

Veteran US soul singer Wilson Pickett has died aged 64 after suffering a heart attack in Virginia.

His management company said that he had been in poor health for the past year, and last performed in 2004.

Born in Alabama, Pickett shot to fame in the 1960s with hits including In The Midnight Hour and Mustang Sally. [...]

Soul singer Solomon Burke added: "We've lost a giant, we've lost a legend, we've lost a man who created his own charisma and made it work around the world."

Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Ray Charles and Isaac Hayes may have been his only peers.

Wilson Pickett (Daily Telegraph, 21/01/2006)

Wilson Pickett, the singer who has died aged 64, was best known for his raspy-voiced and passionate recordings of In the Midnight Hour and Mustang Sally; although he never achieved the popularity of James Brown or Aretha Franklin, his distinctive sound took soul music in a rougher direction and inspired many imitators who were keen to emulate "Wicked" Pickett's aggressive and rhythmic style.

Wilson Pickett, 64, Soul Singer of Great Passion, Dies (JEFF LEEDS, 1/20/06, NY Times)
[M]r. Pickett, who lived in Ashburn, Va., had enjoyed a series of accolades as he approached retirement. His first album in more than a decade - 1999's "It's Harder Now" - was honored with a Grammy nomination for best traditional rhythm and blues vocal performance. In 2000, he picked up three W. C. Handy Awards from the Blues Foundation, including one for comeback album of the year.

At the close of 2004, however, "we sort just said, 'Let's take a year off,' and eased him out of the responsibility of having to think about gigging," Ms. Lewis said. "It wasn't necessary for him financially."

Mr. Pickett had long since cemented his legacy; his shift from gospel music to rhythm and blues and soul led to a string of 1960's classics, including "Mustang Sally," "Land of 1,000 Dances" and "634-5789." [...]

[H]is chance at pop fame emerged in 1961, when he was invited to join the Falcons, an R & B act that had already scored a Top 20 hit, "You're So Fine."

While the Falcons enjoyed modest success, Mr. Pickett struck out on his own, recording the song "If You Need Me." His performance hit the market at roughly the same time the soul singer Solomon Burke released his own version. Still, both treatments sold well, and Mr. Pickett soon had a contract with Atlantic Records.

He quickly cranked out a series of hits, including one of his signature songs, "In the Midnight Hour." Most of his songs were recorded in either Memphis or Muscle Shoals, Ala., which at the time were the hotbeds of soul recording activity in the South. His sidemen included Southern musicians like the guitarist Steve Cropper (who co-wrote "Midnight Hour" and other songs with Mr. Pickett) and, later, the guitarist Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers.

He soon found himself with the nickname "Wicked Pickett" - which has been described as a reference both to his screaming delivery and to his offstage behavior.

He continued to record songs that would become part of the soul canon, including "Funky Broadway" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." He also earned a reputation as one of music's most compelling live performers, delivering stage shows in which he mixed gospel-tinged solemnity with funk stylings that evoked James Brown.

Through the 1970's, Mr. Pickett reached beyond his own repertory, covering songs by Randy Newman ("Momma Told Me Not to Come"), Steppenwolf ("Born to Be Wild"), the Beatles ("Hey Jude") and even the Archies ("Sugar Sugar").

Like other soul performers, he found his star beginning to wane with the advent of disco and other genres in the 1970's.

Reason enough to despise disco.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 20, 2006 12:00 AM

The Guralnick book is excellent; the chapter on Solomon Burke got me thoroughly enthralled with that artist, for which I will always be grateful. Wilson Pickett was an absolute force, a voice that could make anything sound good; he probably recorded "Sugar Sugar" as a business decision, but with that voice it became a soul classic. He was one-of-a-kind, and, barring the unlikely event of old-fashioned soul returning to fashion, we shall not see his like again.

How many of the first wave of soul legends are still with us? Other than Burke, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and some members of the Womack family, very few indeed. Among the second wave we still have Isaac Hayes, Sam Moore from Sam & Dave, Al Green, Luther Ingram, Mavis Staples, William Bell (a minor figure but a good one), most of Booker T and the MG's, Stevie Wonder (might be considered funk rather than soul; your call), and of course Aretha. Treasure them and their work; these next few years will be depressing for soul fans as their ranks will thin without any obvious newcomers to claim the crown. Such is life, but it still is depressing.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at January 20, 2006 9:30 AM

. . . these next few years will be depressing for soul fans as their ranks will thin without any obvious newcomers to claim the crown. . . .

Ever heard Joss Stone? Little blonde-haired blue-eyed girl from England, but she has a voice that can legitimately play in the same league as Aretha.

Posted by: Mike Morley at January 20, 2006 12:19 PM

Dusty Springfield wannabe...

Posted by: oj at January 20, 2006 12:39 PM

Say what you will, that girl Joss has the chops.

Posted by: ted welter at January 20, 2006 9:37 PM