Jackie Wilson

Hear C.C. Rider's Veneration of Jackie Wilson:

If you wanna know where Elvis, James Brown and Michael Jackson learned their moves…look no further than Jackie Wilson. Jackie Wilson was one of the first real stars of rock n’ roll. They called him Mr. Entertainment—and it wasn’t for nothin’. The man did splits, full back flips, and pulled even the ugliest girls in the room up on the stage to be kissed. All while singing with the force of an operatic tenor—in a four-octave range.

Jackie Wilson was one of the greatest showmen of the 20th century. Paved the way for African-Americans crossing over from r&b to pop. And set a high bar for anyone who wants to follow in his footsteps. If you’re wondering why he’s not more famous—because you should be—mismanagement and bad business deals got him down. And a tragic heart-attack, on-stage, while in the middle of the line “My heart is crying,” quieted Mr. Entertainment.

But it still doesn’t take away from his influence. Elvis and Jackie were friends and fans of each other. But even the King ceded the throne to Mr. Entertainment. Story goes, when someone first referred to Jackie as the “Black Elvis,” Presley responded “Does that mean I get to be the white Jackie Wilson?” Here’s his final hit single. From 1967, “Higher and Higher.”