Our September BigPicture column about how to approach possible drug use by new hires a was titled "Higher and hirer," a reference to the Jackie Wilson song "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and higher."
Despite immense talent and several hits, singer Jackie Wilson had less commercial success than other performers of his day. Wilson was born in Detroit in 1934. His father, Jack senior, was a singer-songwriter. Jackie started singing in his church choir as a boy. Mainly a tenor singer, he is said to have possessed a four-octave vocal range that reached to C sharp 6. He was known as "Mr. Excitement" for his stage performance, which included acrobatic moves like splits, jumps, and spins. His performance style influenced James Brown, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson. Yet his sister has said he was not really a dancer. He was a boxer in his early years (until his mother pressured him to quit), and he incorporated boxing moves into his on-stage routine, she explained to Jet magazine.
Wilson shuffled through a number of vocal groups before his big break came. He was chosen to replace Clyde McPhatter in Billy Ward's Dominos in 1953. (McPhatter left to found the Drifters.) Although the group only scored one chart hit with Wilson at the mic, he was able to launch a solo career. His first single was 1956's "Reet Petite"—a song co-written by Berry Gordy Jr., before he founded Motown.
Wilson mainly recorded songs written by others, but did write or co-write a few, including his 1963 hit "Baby Workout," "Squeeze Her—Tease Her (But Love Her)," and "No Pity (in the Naked City)."
"Higher and Higher" was released in 1967 and hit number one on the U.S. R&B chart. A version released by the Dells was said to have been the original version, but it wasn't released until 1968. The song was also a major hit for Rita Coolidge in 1977, reaching number two in the U.S. Peter Tork of the Monkees has performed a bluegrass cover of the song, both with and without the other Monkees. Van Morrison wrote a tribute to Jackie Wilson, "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)."
Wilson had a heart attack on stage in 1975 and slipped into a coma. He died in 1984
SUBMIT JANUARY ANSWERS BY FEB. 17
You'll be entered into our drawing for a three-pack sampler of Joey Kramer's Rockin' & Roastin' Organic Coffee if you correctly spot the rock reference in our January 2019 issue. Email the solution to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight Pacific time on Sunday, Feb. 17. If you don't have a copy of the magazine handy, you can look through the headlines in our mobile version or online. Hint for January's contest: The Beatles. (Please note: previous contest winners may not enter for three months following their win.)