Aug 24, 2019: Jackie Wilson’s Widow Dies on Eve of His Hollywood Star Honor

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Jackie Wilson

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored soul music giant Jackie Wilson with the 2,672nd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 4, 2019. The star was dedicated posthumously in the category of Recording at 7057 Hollywood Boulevard. Watch the event below.

“The late, great Jackie Wilson is one of the most important and influential recording artists of his generation,” said Ana Martinez, Producer of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “He is a man who broke barriers and inspired many young singers” added Martinez.

The event was marred, though, with the death of Wilson’s widow, Harlean Harris Wilson, who was scheduled to accept the award. She passed away at age 81 on Aug. 24.

Harlean Wilson on the cover of a 1954 issue of Jet Magazine

According to an announcement from her family and Jackie WIlson’s record label, Brunswick, Wilson died of natural causes. “Though we are deeply saddened that Harlean will not be with us physically to accept Jackie’s star on September 4th, we are certain that she will be there with Jackie in spirit. Harlean Wilson was a beautiful woman inside and out who lived her life with tremendous grace and dignity and was loved by us all,” said Paul Tarnopol of Brunswick Records.”

Harlean Wilson had been a top model in the ’50s and ’60s.

Helping emcee Rana Ghadban, President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, to unveil the star was Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr, Marshall Thompson of the Chi-Lites, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, and Smokey Robinson.

Other family members and friends of Jackie Wilson were expected to attend, including singer Jody Watley, who is Wilson’s Goddaughter.

Rev. John E. Watley, Jr. drew many famous singers to his church in Chicago, including Wilson. The Reverend and his wife considered the singer to be part of the family. Wilson joyously accepted his honor of being named Jody Watley’s Godfather, although Jody always called him “Uncle Jackie.”

“Jackie asked me to come on stage with him, at around age 8,” she recalls. “It was so exciting. I was dressed in the style of the day… a pretty skirt, Go-Go boots, and a chic mod ponytail. I think the song we did was ‘Baby Work Out’ and I remember singing and dancing with Jackie Wilson! I knew how to do the mashed potato and the twist!”

Harlean Wilson, who was 81, was a top model and appeared on magazine covers such as Ebony, Jet and Hue, among others. She dated Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Ronald Isley prior to marrying Jackie Wilson.

Watch the event below (the ceremony begins at the 8-minute mark)

Jackie Wilson in 1961

Jack Leroy Wilson Jr. was born on June 9, 1934, in Detroit, Michigan. Wilson began singing in a gospel quartet called the Ever-Ready Gospel Singers. In 1953, he joined Billy Ward and His Dominoes, eventually becoming lead singer of the vocal group, replacing Clyde McPhatter. Wilson launched his solo career in November 1957 with his debut single “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want to Meet),” written by Berry Gordy Jr. and Billy Davis, which entered Billboard magazine’s pop chart in November 1957. From 1958 to 1970, Wilson was a mainstay of the R&B and pop charts, where he amassed two dozen Top 40 singles. All of his classics were released on the landmark Brunswick Records label under the direction of future label president and record producer Nat Tarnopol.

Watch Jackie Wilson perform his hit “Lonely Teardrops”

Known as “Mr. Excitement,” Wilson has been honored with inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in its second class of inductees) and the R&B Music Hall of Fame.

Related: Jackie Wilson’s last top 10 hit came in 1967. What else was big that year?

The commercial success of Wilson, along with Brunswick’s endeavors, steered Wilson into television bookings on Dick Clark’s American BandstandThe Ed Sullivan ShowHullabalooShivaree and Shindig! Jackie is also seen doing “You Better Know It” in the 1959 movie Go, Johnny, Go! Wilson’s music was omnipresent on the hit parade: “Lonely Teardrops,”  “That’s Why I Love You So,” “You Better Know It,” “Doggin’ Around,” “Night,” “Alone At Last,” “My Empty Arms,” “A Woman, A Lover, A Friend” and Baby Workout.”

Additional Wilson sessions were done in Chicago with producer Carl Davis and engineer Bruce Swedien at the board, which yielded “Whispers (Gettin’ Louder),” “Higher and Higher,” “I Get the Sweetest Feeling” and “This Love Is Real.”In 2008, “Higher & Higher” was utilized by Barack Obama as the theme song for his presidential campaign.

On September 29, 1975, while playing a Dick Clark oldies revue show at the Latin Casino in New Jersey, Jackie Wilson suffered a heart attack on stage and was subsequently hospitalized until his death on January 21, 1984 at age 49.

Watch Jackie Wilson perform “Higher and Higher” live

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5 Comments so far

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  1. Champ
    #1 Champ 23 August, 2019, 14:07

    I am shocked that it took all these years for the late great Jackie Wilson to be honored with a star, just absolutely shameful. He went into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame with the second group almost 33 years ago. I’m glad that someone in your organization finally realized you had forgotten a great one, R.I.P. Jackie Wilson

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  2. Doug
    #2 Doug 23 August, 2019, 14:57

    Better late than never. The king of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley said, “Jackie, with all you have going for you, you should be the number one singer in the world.” Mr Excitement was and continues to be the greatest combination of a singer and a showman the music world has ever known.Doug Saint Carter

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  3. Debbyk
    #3 Debbyk 23 August, 2019, 18:17

    Way too late but better late than never.
    He entertained audiences where black people weren’t allowed unselfishly sharing his talents paving the way for the future.
    Hopefully his family and loved ones can continue to be proud of his legacy. He was a great performer and people still listen to and watch his performances today on the internet.

    Reply this comment
  4. Big Sal
    #4 Big Sal 24 August, 2019, 00:13

    They have finally stopped dogin him around. One of the greatest soul singers ever. Jackie has been lifted higher.

    Reply this comment
  5. Speedo
    #5 Speedo 26 August, 2019, 23:54

    Jackie Wilson was the most dynamic performer of all time. We lost the greatest singer/performer when he left this earth.
    Thankfully, his son, Bobby Brooks Wilson, carries on where Jackie left off. If you ever have a chance to see him perform, do yourself a favor…go see him, you’ll think you’re seeing his father….I was in shock!!

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