What is significant is that Jackie Wilson applied his talent to popular music. From time to time he sang pop versions of the classics and I would have like to know if he had a hankering to perform with symphony orchestras. Douglas quotes a music writer, Don Waller, who says, “There wasn’t a pop singer alive who could stretch such a thin piece of material into the aural equivalent of an Armani suit.” This ridiculous assessment needs some evaluation from the author, as the song in question is “Danny Boy”, which is among the most emotional ballads ever written.
Still, all this can’t get in the way of a good, well-researched story. Jackie Wilson was raised in Detroit, and as his father was an out of work alcoholic, how did he afford the drink? Jackie wanted to be a boxer but was persuaded that this might ruin his looks. He lost two front teeth and after blowing out his dentures on stage whilst rolling his R’s in “Reet Petite”, he rarely sang the song again. Maybe that’s why he didn’t sing opera.
Jackie established himself in Billy Ward and the Dominoes by telling Ward that he could sing better than Clyde McPhatter. Such braggadocio occurs throughout the book – Jackie Wilson was too arrogant for his own good and relied on instinct rather than vocal training. We are told of the strict discipline in Ward’s band and yet we learn of their love of under age sex, so which is correct, or doesn’t that count? Jackie Wilson was married when he was 16 (and because he used somebody else’s ID, his wife became Freda Richards). He had little respect for his wife as he couldn’t keep his trousers on and one incident follows another – he is knifed by a prostitute and he is shot by a nurse who is carrying his child.
Sometime NDT should do a feature on the reading habits of rock’n’roll stars. Jackie loved “Captain Marvel” and “Tales From The Crypt”, so you can imagine him, Elvis and Gene Vincent swopping comics. Maybe it stems from a poor education and certainly Jackie was very gullible in business dealings. He had little idea what was going on and when told he had $11.85 in the bank, he assumed it was $11,850. He was an easy target for drug pushers and he was controlled by the Mafia.