Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett

American singer and songwriter who worked primarily in the R genres
Date of Birth: 18.03.1941
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Wilson Pickett
  2. Early Life and Influences
  3. The Falcon and Solo Career
  4. Later Career and Legacy

Biography of Wilson Pickett

Early Life and Influences

Wilson Pickett was an American singer and songwriter who primarily worked in the genres of R&B, rock and roll, and soul. He was known for his natural, raspy, passionate voice. Pickett was one of the key figures in the development of American soul music. He recorded over fifty songs that made it into the US R&B charts, and he also achieved some success in the pop charts for a period of time. His most famous hits include "In The Midnight Hour," "Land of 1,000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway." For his contribution to the development of American and global music, as well as his work in songwriting and recording, Pickett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Pickett was born in Prattville, Alabama. As a young boy, he sang in the choir of a local Baptist church. Wilson was the youngest of eleven children. His childhood was quite difficult, especially his relationship with his mother, who was a hot-tempered woman. The boy often ran away from home and spent the night in the woods with his dog. Eventually, he moved in with his father in Detroit in 1955. His church singing developed a unique, powerful, and passionate singing style, which was further honed on the streets of Detroit. Pickett was also influenced by other musicians, particularly Little Richard, whom he called the architect of rock and roll.

The Falcon and Solo Career

In 1995, Wilson joined the gospel group "The Violinaires." The group performed with other acts such as "The Soul Stirrers," "The Swan Silvertones," and "The Davis Sisters," mainly touring churches across the country. After singing gospel for four years, Pickett was tempted by the success of his colleagues who had successfully transitioned to more popular music genres and joined the group "The Falcons." This group was one of the first to make gospel truly popular, paving the way for soul music. Besides Wilson, many other musicians who later became famous for their solo careers worked in this group, including Eddie Floyd and Mack Rice. Wilson's main success as a member of "The Falcon" was the 1962 hit "I Found a Love," which reached the sixth spot on the R&B charts and 75th on the pop charts.

Wilson achieved significant success as a solo artist in 1963 when he released the original composition "It's Too Late." The song entered the charts on July 27th and eventually reached the sixth position on the R&B charts and 49th on the pop charts. This record's success caught the attention of Jerry Wexler, a producer at Atlantic Records, and Wilson secured a contract with the company. Wilson's first single with Atlantic, "I'm Gonna Cry," only reached the 124th position on the charts, which didn't sit well with the studio. In an effort to promote the new artist, they paired him with popular producer Bert Berns and enlisted songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil for support. With this team, Pickett recorded "Come Home Baby," a pop duet with Tammi Lynn from New Orleans, but unfortunately, this composition also failed.

However, Wilson's luck changed when he recorded his third single for Atlantic at the recording studio "Stax Records." The song, "In The Midnight Hour," reached the third spot on the R&B charts, twenty-first on the pop charts, and twelfth on the UK singles chart. It sold over a million copies and was certified gold. In the same year, Wilson recorded several more songs, with keyboardist Isaac Hayes assisting him. Many of these songs were successful, including "Don't Fight It," which reached the fourth spot on the R&B charts and fifty-third on the pop charts. "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A)" achieved first and thirteenth positions on the respective charts, and "Ninety-Nine and A Half (Won't Do)" reached thirteenth and fifty-third spots. All these songs are considered soul classics, combining various styles of music. "Midnight Hour" and "Don't Fight It" have a harder sound, while "Ninety-Nine and A Half" clearly shows the influence of Pickett's gospel background, and "634-5789" leans more towards pop music.

Later Career and Legacy

Pickett did not return to "Stax" as the label's owner, Jim Stewart, strictly prohibited outside recordings. Wexler sent Wilson to "Fame Studios," another company closely associated with Atlantic. "Fame" was considered a cult studio among soul music enthusiasts, which worked to Pickett's advantage. Pickett worked with Atlantic until 1972 when he joined "RCA Records." Here, he recorded at least four successful R&B hits, including "Mr. Magic Man," "Take a Closer Look at the Woman You're With," "International Playboy," and "Soft Soul Boogie Woogie." However, he no longer achieved high positions in the pop charts, as these songs did not rise above the ninetieth spot on the "Billboard Hot 100."

Pickett released his last recording in 1999, but he remained fairly active, performing concerts until 2004. Additionally, in 1998, he appeared in the film "Blues Brothers 2000," where he performed "634-5789" with Eddie Floyd and Johnny Lang.

In 2004, Pickett began experiencing heart problems and had to interrupt his concert tours to seek treatment in the hospital. In his final days, he returned to the roots of his music and told his sister that he planned to record a new gospel album. Unfortunately, doctors could not save him. Pickett was buried in Louisville, Kentucky, and his old friend, Little Richard, attended the funeral.