Jackie Marie Wilson: The Legendary Life and Legacy of Jackie Marie Wilson

Jackie Marie Wilson: The Legendary Life and Legacy of Jackie Marie Wilson

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Written By Joe Martin

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Jackie Marie Wilson, an iconic figure in the world of soul music, passed away on this day in 1984 at the age of 49. Known as “Mr. Excitement,” Wilson’s incredible tenor voice, which spanned four octaves, played a pivotal role in the evolution of rhythm and blues into soul music. This article delves into the remarkable journey of Jackie Marie Wilson, his contributions to music, and his lasting legacy.

Early Life and Rise to Fame

Jackie Marie Wilson’s career began in the early 1950s when he joined the R&B vocal group Billy Ward and His Dominoes. His talent quickly became apparent, and in 1957, Wilson embarked on a solo career that would cement his place in music history. Over the years, he recorded over 50 hit singles that spanned genres including R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop, and easy listening. His dynamic performances and powerful voice earned him the nickname “Mr. Excitement.”

Tragic Incident and Health Struggles

On September 29, 1975, while performing his hit song “Lonely Teardrops” at the Latin Casino in New Jersey, Jackie Wilson suffered a massive heart attack. He collapsed on stage, hitting his head and falling into a coma. For the next eight years, Wilson remained in a comatose state until his death on January 21, 1984, due to complications from pneumonia. Despite his tragic end, Wilson’s influence on music continued to resonate with fans and fellow artists.

Significant Milestones in Music History

Jackie Marie Wilson’s impact on the music industry is evident in various milestones throughout his career and beyond:

1965: The Byrds recorded Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” in Los Angeles.
1965: Over 3,000 fans greeted The Rolling Stones and Roy Orbison at Sydney Airport for their Australian tour.
1968: The Jimi Hendrix Experience began recording their iconic cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
1978: The soundtrack album “Saturday Night Fever” dominated the U.S. album charts for 24 weeks.
1982: B.B. King donated his record collection to Mississippi University’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture.
1984: Yes reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
1987: The Coasters became the first vocal group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Jackie Wilson’s Posthumous Honors

In the years following his death, Jackie Marie Wilson received numerous accolades celebrating his contributions to music:

1987: Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during the second induction ceremony, alongside legends like B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Aretha Franklin, and Roy Orbison.
1990: Squeeze became the debut band on MTV’s “Unplugged” program.
2002: Peggy Lee, an American singer and actress, passed away.
2007: Mika’s “Grace Kelly” topped the U.K. charts, with Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” holding the top album spot.
2012: Adele’s second studio album “21” dominated the U.S. album charts.

A Legacy Cemented on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Jackie Wilson’s enduring legacy was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On September 4, the Detroit-born singer, known for hits like “Reet Petite” and “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” was celebrated with a star unveiling ceremony. A new 50-track compilation, “The Definitive Jackie Wilson,” was released on the same day, ensuring that his music continues to reach new audiences.

Jody Watley, Wilson’s goddaughter, attended the ceremony, highlighting the personal connections and impact Wilson had on those close to him. Harlean Harris Wilson, his second wife and executor of his estate, expressed her elation at the recognition, stating, “That title ‘Mr. Excitement’ wasn’t just given to him. He worked for it… He was very vibrant, very effervescent, generous to a fault. He loved to sing and he loved life.”

Final Resting Place and Ongoing Tributes

Jackie Wilson’s final resting place is at Westlawn Cemetery near Detroit, where he was buried in an unmarked grave. Thanks to a public campaign, funds were raised to provide a headstone. Michael Jackson, a fan of Wilson’s, paid for his funeral expenses, further underscoring the deep respect and admiration Wilson commanded within the music industry.

In addition to his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a new biography and documentary film about Jackie Wilson are currently in development, promising to shed more light on his life and career. These projects are highly anticipated and will offer fans and music historians a deeper understanding of Wilson’s profound impact on music.


Jackie Marie Wilson’s legacy as a pioneering soul singer and dynamic performer remains strong more than three decades after his passing. His contributions to music, his unforgettable performances, and his influence on subsequent generations of artists ensure that “Mr. Excitement” will never be forgotten. As new generations discover his music, Jackie Wilson’s star continues to shine brightly, both literally on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and metaphorically in the hearts of music lovers worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Jackie Marie Wilson?
Jackie Marie Wilson was a legendary soul singer known as “Mr. Excitement” for his dynamic performances and powerful tenor voice. He played a significant role in the transition of rhythm and blues into soul music.

What were some of Jackie Wilson’s biggest hits?
Some of Jackie Wilson’s biggest hits include “Lonely Teardrops,” “Reet Petite,” “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” and “To Be Loved.”

How did Jackie Wilson die?
Jackie Wilson suffered a massive heart attack while performing in 1975, which left him in a coma for eight years. He passed away in 1984 due to complications from pneumonia.

What honors did Jackie Wilson receive posthumously?
Posthumously, Jackie Wilson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His music continues to be celebrated through various compilations and tributes.

What is Jackie Wilson’s legacy?
Jackie Wilson’s legacy is one of groundbreaking contributions to soul music, influencing countless artists and leaving a lasting impact on the music industry. His powerful voice and energetic performances earned him the nickname “Mr. Excitement,” a testament to his enduring influence.

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