Johnnie Wilder Jr., frontman and co-founder of the 1970s R&B group Heatwave, died May 13 at his home in Clayton, Ohio. He was 56. No cause of death has been made public.
In 1979, Wilder became paralyzed from the neck down after a car accident and subsequently stopped touring with Heatwave, though he continued to serve as lead vocalist. The band’s hit singles include “Boogie Nights,” “Always and Forever” and “The Groove Line.”
Wilder and his brother Keith formed the group in the late ‘70s while they were stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army. After leaving the service, the pair added several musicians, including songwriter/keyboardist Rod Temperton, who has written several hit records for Michael Jackson.
Heatwave released seven albums, beginning its 1977 debut “Too Hot To Handle” (Epic) and including a 1997 reunion set, “Live at the Greek Theater” (Century Vista). The group disbanded in 1983 after enduring a series of member arrivals and departures (Temperton quit in 1978).
The Wilder brothers released “Sound of Soul” (Blatent) in 1989, and Johnnie recorded two gospel albums, “My Goal” (Light) and “One More Day.”