(March 18, 1941 - January 19, 2006)
Place of Birth: Prattville, Alabama
1999 Inductee (Performing)
Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Photo: Encyclopedia of Alabama: Wilson Pickett
Of the major '60s soul stars, Wilson Pickett was one of the roughest and sweatiest, working up some of the decade's hottest dance floor grooves on hits like "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway." Although he tends to be held in somewhat lower esteem than more versatile talents like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, he is often a preferred alternative of fans who like their soul on the rawer side. He also did a good deal to establish the sound of Southern Soul with his early hits, which were often written and recorded with the cream of the session musicians in Memphis and Muscle Shoals.
Before establishing himself as a solo artist, Pickett sang with the Falcons, who had a Top Ten R&B hit in 1962 with "I Found a Love." "If You Need Me" (covered by the Rolling Stones) and "It's Too Late" were R&B hits for the singer before he hooked up with Atlantic Records, who sent him to record at Stax in Memphis in 1965. One early result was "In the Midnight Hour," whose chugging horn line, loping funky beats, and impassioned vocals combined into a key transitional performance that brought R&B into the soul age. It was an R&B chart-topper, and a substantial pop hit (#21), though its influence was stronger than that respectable position might indicate: thousands of bands, Black and White, covered "In the Midnight Hour" onstage and on record in the 1960s.
Pickett had a flurry of other galvanizing soul hits over the next few years, including "634-5789," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway," all of which, like "In the Midnight Hour," were frequently adapted by other bands as a dance-ready number. The king of that hill, though, had to be "Land of 1000 Dances," Pickett's biggest pop hit (#6), a soul anthem of sorts with its roll call of popular dances, and covered by almost as many acts as "Midnight Hour" was.
Pickett didn't confine himself to the environs of Stax for long; soon he was also cutting tracks at Muscle Shoals. He recorded several early songs by Bobby Womack; he used Duane Allman as a session guitarist on a hit cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude." He cut some hits in Philadelphia with Gamble-Huff productions in the early '70s. But his biggest records were cut by Rick Hall in Muscle Shoals, Alabama at FAME Studios. He even did a hit version of the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar." The hits kept rolling through the early '70s, including "Don't Knock My Love" and "Get Me Back on Time, Engine Number 9."
One of the corollaries of '60s soul is that if a performer rose to fame with Motown or Atlantic, he or she would produce little of note after leaving the label. Pickett, unfortunately, did not prove an exception to the rule. His last big hit was "Fire and Water," in 1972. He continued to be active on the tour circuit; his most essential music, all from the 1960s and early '70s, was assembled for the superb Rhino double-CD anthology A Man and a Half. -- Richie Unterberger
Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame | WILSON PICKETT
Wilson Pickett (March 18, 1941 – January 19, 2006) was an American R&B/rock and roll and soul singer and songwriter.
A major figure in the development of American soul music, Pickett recorded over 50 songs which made the US R&B charts, and frequently crossed over to the US Billboard Hot 100. Among his best known hits are "In the Midnight Hour" (which he co-wrote), "Land of 1,000 Dances", "Mustang Sally", and "Funky Broadway".
The impact of Pickett's songwriting and recording led to his 1991 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Pickett was born March 18, 1941 in Prattville, Alabama, and grew up singing in Baptist church choirs.
He was the fourth of 11 children and called his mother "the baddest woman in my book," telling historian Gerri Hirshey: "I get scared of her now. She used to hit me with anything, skillets, stove wood — (one time I ran away and) cried for a week. Stayed in the woods, me and my little dog." Pickett eventually left to live with his father in Detroit in 1955.
Pickett's forceful, passionate style of singing was developed in the church and on the streets of Detroit, under the influence of recording stars such as Little Richard, whom he later referred to as "the architect of rock and roll.
In 1955, Pickett became part of a gospel music group called the Violinaires. The group accompanied The Soul Stirrers, The Swan Silvertones, and The Davis Sisters on church tours across the country. After singing for four years in the locally popular gospel-harmony group, Pickett, lured by the success of other gospel singers of the day, who left gospel music in the late 1950s for the more lucrative secular music market, joined the Falcons in 1959.
The Falcons were one of the first vocal groups to bring gospel into a popular context, thus paving the way for soul music. The Falcons also featured some notable members who went on to become major solo artists; when Pickett joined the group, Eddie Floyd and Sir Mack Rice were also members of the group. Pickett's biggest success with The Falcons came in 1962, when "I Found a Love," (co-authored by Pickett and featuring his lead vocals), peaked at #6 on the R&B chart, and at #75 on the Hot 100.
Soon after recording "I Found a Love," Pickett cut his first solo recordings, including "I'm Gonna Cry," his first collaboration with Don Covay. Around this time, Pickett also recorded a demo for a song he co-wrote, called "If You Need Me." A slow-burning soul ballad featuring a spoken sermon, Pickett sent the demo to Jerry Wexler, a producer at Atlantic Records. Wexler heard the demo and gave it to one of the label's own recording artists, Solomon Burke. Burke's recording of "If You Need Me" became one of his biggest hits (#2 R&B, #37 Pop) and is now considered a soul standard, but Pickett was crushed when he discovered that Atlantic had given away his song. "First time I ever cried in my life". Pickett's version of the song was released on Double L Records, and was a moderate hit, peaking at #30 R&B, #64 pop.
Pickett's first big success as a solo artist came with "It's Too Late," an original composition (not to be confused with the Chuck Willis standard of the same name). Entering the charts on July 27, 1963, it eventually peaked at #7 on the R&B chart (#49 Pop). This record's success convinced Wexler and Atlantic to buy Pickett's recording contract from Double L Records in 1964.
Pickett's Atlantic career began with a self-produced single, "I'm Gonna Cry". Looking to boost Pickett's chart chances, Atlantic next paired him with record producer Bert Berns and established songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. With this team, Pickett recorded "Come Home Baby," a duet with singer Tami Lynn, but this single failed to chart.
Pickett's breakthrough came at Stax Records' recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee, where he recorded his third Atlantic single, "In the Midnight Hour" (1965), his best-remembered hit, peaking at #1 R&B, #21 pop (US), and #12 (UK). It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
The genesis of "In the Midnight Hour" was a recording session on May 12, 1965, at which Wexler worked out a powerful rhythm track with studio musicians Steve Cropper and Al Jackson of the Stax Records house band, which also included bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn. Stax keyboard player Booker T. Jones, who usually played with Dunn, Cropper and Jackson as Booker T. & the M.G.'s, did not play on any of the Pickett studio sessions. Wexler said to Cropper and Jackson, "Why don't you pick up on this thing here?" He performed a dance step. Cropper later explained in an interview that Wexler told them that "this was the way the kids were dancing; they were putting the accent on two. Basically, we'd been one-beat-accenters with an afterbeat; it was like 'boom dah,' but here this was a thing that went 'um-chaw,' just the reverse as far as the accent goes."
Pickett recorded three sessions at Stax in May and October 1965, and was joined by keyboardist Isaac Hayes for the October sessions. In addition to "In the Midnight Hour," Pickett's 1965 recordings included the singles "Don't Fight It," (#4 R&B, #53 pop) "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A,)" (#1 R&B, #13 pop) and "Ninety-Nine and A Half (Won't Do)" (#13 R&B, #53 pop). All but "634-5789" were original compositions Pickett co-wrote with Eddie Floyd and/or Steve Cropper; "634-5789" was credited to Cropper and Floyd alone.
For his next sessions, Pickett would not return to Stax; the label's owner, Jim Stewart, banned all outside productions in December, 1965. As a result, Wexler took Pickett to Fame Studios, another recording studio with a closer association to Atlantic Records. Located in a converted tobacco warehouse in nearby Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Pickett recorded some of his biggest hits there. This included the highest charting version of "Land of 1,000 Dances", which became Pickett's third R&B #1, and his biggest ever pop hit, peaking at #6. it was another million selling disc.
Other big hits from this era in Pickett's career included two other covers: Mack Rice's "Mustang Sally", (#6 R&B), and Dyke & the Blazers' "Funky Broadway", (R&B #1, #8 Pop). Both tracks were million sellers. The band heard on almost all of Pickett's Fame recordings included keyboardist Spooner Oldham and drummer Roger Hawkins.
Towards the end of 1967, Pickett began recording at American Studios in Memphis with producers Tom Dowd and Tommy Cogbill, and also began recording numerous songs by Bobby Womack. The songs "I'm In Love," "Jealous Love," "I've Come A Long Way," "I'm A Midnight Mover," (a Pickett/Womack co-write), and "I Found A True Love" were all Womack penned hits for Pickett in 1967 and 1968. Pickett also recorded work by other songwriters during this era; Rodger Collins' "She's Looking Good" and a cover of the traditional blues standard "Stagger Lee" were also Top 40 Pickett hits recorded at American. Womack was the guitarist on all these recordings.
Pickett returned to Fame Studios in late 1968 and early 1969, where he worked with a band that featured guitarist Duane Allman, Hawkins and David Hood. A #16 pop hit cover of The Beatles' "Hey Jude" came from these Fame sessions, as well as the minor hits "Mini-Skirt Minnie" and "Hey Joe".
Late 1969 found Pickett at Criteria Studios in Miami. Hit covers of The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (#16 R&B, #92 Pop) and The Archies' "Sugar Sugar" (#4 R&B, #25 Pop), as well as the Pickett original "She Said Yes" (#20 R&B, #68 Pop) came from these sessions.
Pickett then teamed up with established Philadelphia-based hitmakers Gamble and Huff for the 1970 album Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia, which featured his next two hit singles, "Get Me Back On Time, Engine No.9" and "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You", the latter selling one million copies.
Following these two big hits, Pickett returned to Muscle Shoals and the band featuring Hood, Hawkins and Tippy Armstrong. This line-up recorded Pickett's fifth and last R&B #1 hit, "Don't Knock My Love, Pt. 1". It was another Pickett recording that clocked up sales in excess of one million copies. Two further hits followed in '71: "Call My Name, I'll Be There" (#10 R&B, #52 Pop) and "Fire and Water" (#2 R&B, #24 Pop), a cover of a song by Free.
Pickett recorded several tracks in 1972 for a planned new album on Atlantic, but after the single "Funk Factory" reached #11 R&B and #58 pop in June of 1972, he left Atlantic for RCA Records. His final Atlantic single, a cover of Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not To Come," was actually culled from Pickett's 1971 album Don't Knock My Love.
In 2010, Rhino Handmade released a comprehensive compilation of these years titled "Funky Midnight Mover - The Studio Recordings (1962-1978)". The compilation included all originally issued recordings during Pickett's Atlantic years along with previously unreleased recordings. This collection was sold online only via Rhino.com.
Pickett continued to record with some success on the R&B charts for RCA in 1973 and 1974, scoring four top 30 R&B hits with "Mr. Magic Man", "Take a Closer Look at the Woman You're With", "International Playboy" and "Soft Soul Boogie Woogie". However, he was no longer crossing over to the pop charts with any regularity, as none of these songs reached higher than #90 on the Hot 100. In 1975, with Pickett's once-prominent chart career on the wane, RCA dropped Pickett from the label.
Pickett continued to record sporadically with several labels over the following decades, occasionally making the lower to mid-range of the R&B charts, however he never had another pop hit after 1974. His last record was issued in 1999, although he remained fairly active on the touring front until he became ill in 2004. Pickett appeared in the 1998 film Blues Brothers 2000, performing "634-5789" along with Eddie Floyd and Jonny Lang.
Outside of music, Pickett's personal life was troubled. Even in his 1960s heyday, Pickett's friends found him to be temperamental and preoccupied with guns; Don Covay described him as "young and wild". Then in 1987, as his recording career was drying up, Pickett was given two years' probation and fined $1,000 for carrying a loaded shotgun in his car. In 1991, he was arrested for allegedly yelling death threats while driving a car over the mayor's front lawn in Englewood, New Jersey. The following year, he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend.
In 1993, Pickett was involved in an accident where he struck an 86-year-old pedestrian, Pepe Ruiz, with his car in Englewood. Ruiz, who helped organize the New York animation union, died later that year. Pickett pled guilty to drunken driving charges and received a reduced sentence of one year in jail and five years probation. Pickett had been previously convicted of various drug offenses.
Throughout the 1990s, despite his personal troubles, Pickett was continually honored for his contributions to music. In addition to being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, his music was prominently featured in the film The Commitments, with Pickett as an off-screen character. In 1993, he was honored with a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
Pickett was also a popular songwriter, as songs he wrote were recorded by artists like Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, the Grateful Dead, Booker T. & the MGs, Genesis, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Hootie & the Blowfish, Echo & the Bunnymen, Roxy Music, Bruce Springsteen, Los Lobos, The Jam and Ani DiFranco, among others.
Several years after his release from jail, Pickett returned to the studio and received a Grammy Award nomination for the 1999 album It's Harder Now. The comeback also resulted in his being honored as 'Soul/Blues Male Artist of the Year' by the Blues Foundation in Memphis. It's Harder Now was voted 'Comeback Blues Album of the Year' and 'Soul/Blues Album of the Year.'
In 2003, he co-starred in the D.A. Pennebaker directed documentary Only the Strong Survive, a selection of both the 2002 Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals. In 2003, Pickett was also a judge for the second annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers. In 2005, Pickett was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. His recording of "Mustang Sally" was voted a Legendary Michigan Song in 2007.
Pickett spent the twilight of his career playing dozens of concert dates a year until 2004, when he began suffering from health problems. While in the hospital, he returned to his spiritual roots and told his sister that he wanted to record a gospel album. However, he never recovered.
Pickett died from a heart attack on January 19, 2006 in Reston, Virginia. He was aged 64. He was buried in Louisville, Kentucky. The eulogy was delivered by Pastor Steve Owens of Decatur, Georgia. Little Richard, a long-time friend of Pickett's, spoke about him and preached briefly at the funeral. Pickett spent many years in Louisville when his mother moved there from Alabama. He was remembered on March 20, 2006, at New York's B.B. King Blues Club with performances by the Commitments, Ben E King, his long-term backing band the Midnight Movers, soul singer Bruce "Big Daddy" Wayne, and Southside Johnny in front of an audience that included members of his family, including two brothers.
Release date Title Chart positions
US Hot 100 US R&B UK
1962 "If You Need Me" 64 30 –
1963 "It's Too Late" 49 7 –
"I'm Down to My Last Heartbreak" 95 27 –
"My Heart Belongs to You" (reissue charted in 1965) 109 – –
1964 "I'm Gonna Cry" 124 – –
"Come Home Baby" – – –
1965 "In the Midnight Hour" 21 1 12
"Don't Fight It" 53 4 29
1966 "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)" 13 1 36
"Ninety Nine and a Half (Won't Do)" 53 13 –
"Land of 1000 Dances" 6 1 22
"Mustang Sally" 23 6 28
1967 "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" 29 19 –
"I Found a Love - Pt. 1" 32 6 –
"You Can't Stand Alone" (A-Side) 70 26 –
→ "Soul Dance Number Three" (B-Side) 55 10 –
"Funky Broadway" 8 1 43
"I'm in Love" (A-Side) 45 4 –
→ "Stag-O-Lee" (B-Side) 22 13 –
1968 "Jealous Love" (A-Side) 50 18 –
→ "I've Come a Long Way" (B-Side) 101 46 –
"She's Looking Good" 15 7 –
"I'm a Midnight Mover" 24 6 38
"I Found a True Love" 42 11 –
"A Man and a Half" 42 20 –
"Hey Jude" 23 13 16
1969 "Mini-skirt Minnie" 50 19 –
"Born to Be Wild" 64 41 –
"Hey Joe" 59 29 –
"You Keep Me Hangin' On" 92 16 –
1970 "Sugar, Sugar" (A-Side) 25 4 –
→ "Cole, Cooke, and Redding" (B-Side) 91 11 –
"She Said Yes" 68 20 –
"Engine No.9" 14 3 –
1971 "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" 17 2 –
"Don't Knock My Love - Pt. 1" 13 1 –
"Call My Name, I'll Be There" 52 10 –
"Fire and Water" 24 2 –
1972 "Funk Factory" 58 11 –
"Mama Told Me Not To Come" 99 16 –
1973 "Mr. Magic Man" 98 16 –
"Take a Closer Look at the Woman You're With" 90 17 –
"International Playboy" 104 30 –
1974 "Soft Soul Boogie Woogie" 103 20 –
"Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It" – 68 –
"I Was Too Nice" – – –
1975 "The Best Part of A Man" – 26 –
1976 "Love Will Keep Us Together" – 69 –
1977 "Love Dagger" – – –
1978 "Who Turned You On" – 59 –
"Groovin'" – 94 –
1979 "I Want You" – 41 –
1980 "Live With Me" – 95 –
1981 "Ain't Gonna Give You No More" – – –
"Back On The Right Track" – – –
1987 "Don't Turn Away" – 74 –
"In the Midnight Hour" (re-recording) – – 62
1988 "Love Never Let Me Down" – – –
It's Too Late (1963, Double L)
In The Midnight Hour (1965, Atlantic)
The Exciting Wilson Pickett (1966, Atlantic) US: #21
The Best Of Wilson Pickett (1967, Atlantic) US: #35
The Wicked Pickett (1967, Atlantic) US: #42
The Sound Of Wilson Pickett (1967, Atlantic) US: #54
I'm In Love (1967, Atlantic) US: #70
The Midnight Mover (1968, Atlantic) US: #91
Hey Jude (1969, Atlantic) US: #97
Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia (1970, Atlantic) US: #64
Right On (1970, Atlantic)
The Best Of Wilson Pickett, Vol. II (1971, Atlantic) US: #73
Don't Knock My Love (1972, Atlantic) US: #132
Mr. Magic Man (1973, RCA) US: #187
Wilson Pickett's Greatest Hits (1973) US: #178
Miz Lena's Boy (1973, RCA) US: #212
Pickett In The Pocket (1974, RCA)
Live In Japan (1974, RCA)
Join Me And Let's Be Free (1975, RCA)
Chocolate Mountain (1976, Wicked)
Funky Situation (1978, Big Tree)
I Want You (1979, EMI) US: #205
Right Track (1981, EMI)
American Soul Man (1987, Motown)
A Man And A Half: The Best Of Wilson Pickett (1992, Rhino/Atlantic)
It's Harder Now (1999, Bullseye Blues)
Live And Burnin' - Stockholm '69 (2009, Soulsville)
Live In Germany 1968 (2009, Crypt Records 2009)
Funky Midnight Mover: The Atlantic Studio Recordings (1962-1978) (2010, Rhino)
1^ a b c d e f g h i Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 745–746. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
2^ a b c Wilson Pickett
3^ a b c http://www.sacobserver.com/soul/020906/wilson_pickett.shtml
4^ a b c d e Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 194, 210, 227 & 301. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
5^ Cartoon Diary: August 1, 1944
6^ Leeds, Jeff (2006-01-20). "Wilson Pickett, 64, Soul Singer of Great Passion, Dies". The New York Times.
7^ "Pickett pleads guilty to drunken driving charges - singer Wilson Pickett - Brief Article". Jet. 1993.
9^ Independent Music Awards - Past Judges
10^ Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed July 2010
11^ Joel Whitburn, Top Pop Singles, 12th edn, pp.759-760.
12^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 426. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
Ross, Andrew and Rose, Tricia (Ed.). (1994). Microphone fiends: Youth music and youth culture. Routledge: New York. ISBN 0-415-90908-2
Hirshey, Gerri. Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music. Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 1994) ISBN 0-306-80581-2
Hirshey, Gerri (February 9, 2006). Wilson Pickett, 1941-2006. Rolling Stone #933.
Sacks, Leo. Liner notes to "A Man And A Half: The Best of Wilson Pickett" (1992, Rhino).
Source: Wilson Pickett - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Wilson Pickett, 64; Soul Legend Sang Hits 'In the Midnight Hour,' 'Mustang Sally' - Los Angeles Times
Wilson Pickett, 64, Soul Singer of Great Passion, Dies - New York Times
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