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Lonely Teardrops - Jackie Wilson

Jackie Wilson's first release after leaving Billy Ward and his Dominoes was "Reet Petite" a song in which he quite clearly attempted to lay down a marker as the best soul / rock and roll singer in the US. It was written by a nascent songwriting team consisting of Berry Gordy, his sister Gwen and their friend Roquel "Billy" Davies. The song was a big local hit in Detroit and in the UK but only a minor hit on the US Hot 100. The team continued to write songs for him, but it wasn't until their fifth outing that they struck pay dirt when "Lonely Teardrops" made number 7 in the US chart and set him off on a string of national hits.

Wilson's stage show was an energetic mix of dynamic dance moves, struts and poses as well as his passionate singing and was a big influence on just about everyone who came after. Unfortunately, like many musicians, he was exploited by his manager and record company who would let him roll up huge debts in loans to them for expenses, and then overwork him by making him go on long tours to pay them back. They also pocketed huge sums in record sales of which Wilson saw little. In 1975 he collapsed while performing on stage after a severe heart attack. At the moment of the attack, he was singing the line

"my heart is crying, crying"

from "Lonely Teardrops". He died nearly nine years later in 1984, having regained consciousness but never the power of speech. He died a pauper, and his family could only afford his headstone thanks to an appeal for funds that went out on Detroit radio. In 1975 his manager, Nat Tarnapol, allegedly owed Wilson over a million dollars in royalties, although this wasn't successfully proven in court as the singer never recovered enough to testify in any kind of prosecution.

Lonely teardrops indeed.

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