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Jackie Wilson Baby Workout LP CoverI flipped on the radio the other day and heard George Benson doing a remake of the song Baby Workout, the 1963 hit from the late, great R & B singer Jackie Wilson.  It wasn’t a bad version but it only made me really want to hear the original once more.  That’s usually how it goes when I hear somebody cover a Jackie Wilson song.  They usually pale to the real thing and Jackie Wilson was the real thing though he is often forgotten these days.  But that is somewhat  understandable considering he died thirty years ago, in 1984, after suffering through the after-effects of a stroke nine years before.

He just faded from the public’s consciousness.

And that is the shame because Wilson always seemed to live up to his nickname– Mr. Excitement.  His powerful stage moves and soaring voice drove his fans into a frenzy and influenced generations of performers.  Michael Jackson owed much of his stagecraft to Wilson, acknowledging it in his acceptance speech for his 1987 Grammy for Thriller.   You cans eeit also in some of Bruno Mars’ stagework. Wilson’s charismatic performances also garnered him hit after hit.  Reet Petite.  Lonely Teardrops.   The classic Your Love (Keeps Lifting Me Higher).  And many more including Baby Workout, which is a personal favorite of mine.

His life had many highs but perhaps more lows:  Arrests, shootings, the early deaths of several of his children, drug abuse, divorces, bankruptcy and, of course, the stroke a that consumed the last nine years of his short life.  But I don’t want to focus on the tragedy of his life or even the relative obscurity to which he has been assigned through the intervening years.  When I hear him sing and watch him perform, he comes alive once again.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

Here’s a version of Baby Workout from the old Shindig show.  You can get a good idea of Wilson’s power if you get by what looks to be the cast of Up With People! gyrating around him in their matching sweaters.  Anyway, enjoy and have a great Sunday.

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