jazz & blues music blog with news, reviews, concerts & more, with a Canadian focus

January 20, 2006

Soul legend Wilson Pickett dies aged 64

Written by
cindy mcleod

Wilson Pickett, the soul pioneer best known for hard-driving hits Mustang Sally and In The Midnight Hour, has died of a heart attack in Virginia, his management company said last night. He was 64, and had been in declining health for the past year.

Pickett was one of the originators of the hard-edged Memphis sound, and along with fellow artists Aretha Franklin, Smoky Robinson, and Otis Redding, produced a grittier soul sound than that of Motown.

Born March 18, 1941 in Prattville, Alabama, Pickett grew up one of 11 children, and as so many of the south, sang gospel with the local church choir. As a teen he moved to Detroit, but remained relatively unknown until joining R&B group the Falcons, with whom he scored the hit I Found a Love in 1962. He went solo a year later, hitting the big time after meeting Jerry Wexler and forging the connection with Atlantic in 1963.

It was Wexler who dubbed him with the moniker �Wicket Wilson Picket� , and who oversaw the release of �In the Midnight Hour� and �Mustang Sally�, which made the top 25 on the Billboard pop charts. A chain of hits followed, including �634-5789�, �Funky Broadway� and �Land of a Thousand Dances�.

In the 70s Pickett faced steadily fewer hits and a shrinking reputation when disco became popular. Hitting rock-bottom in the early 1990s, he was arrested for uttering death threats, followed by assault charge. He was convicted of drunk driving in 1993 and spent most of 1994 in jail.

The late 90�s saw a resurgence in his popularity, reignited in part by the release of the movie The Commitments, which told the story of a Dublin band for whom Pickett was a hero. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, and given the Pioneer award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation two years later.

His final album, the 1999 Grammy-nominatedIt’s Harder Now, was widely acclaimed and received three WC Handy awards. Pickett continued to perform regularly into 2005.

“If I wasn’t in showbusiness, I don’t know what I would have been – a wanderer or something, you know?” he said in 2001. “But God blessed me with the talent and the chance. I knocked on enough doors, and this is what I can give myself credit for.”

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.