Soul/R&B legend Wilson Pickett died of a heart attack today (Jan. 19) at a hospital near his Virginia home, according to a spokesperson. He was 64.
Born in Pratville, Ala., Pickett moved to Detroit as a teen and joined the Falcons, singing on their 1962 hit “I Found a Love.” By 1965, he had signed a solo deal with Atlantic, scoring a No. 21 pop hit with “In the Midnight Hour,” which he co-wrote with legendary sessions musician Steve Cropper.
A slew of late ’60s R&B/soul hits followed, including “Land of 1,000 Dances,” “Funky Broadway,” “634-5789,” “She’s Lookin’ Good” and “Mustang Sally.” As the ’70s dawned, Pickett scored three consecutive top 20 pop singles with “Engine Number 9,” “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” and “Don’t Knock My Love Pt. 1.”
In all, five of his singles reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts. Pickett associated himself with some of the top sessions musicians of the time, and was a frequent visitor to Stax and Muscle Shoals Studios. He even hired the late Duane Allman to play guitar on his 1969 cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”
Pickett recorded regularly into the mid 1980s and was a 1991 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That year, his career was revived thanks to the film “The Commitments,” which follows an unknown Irish soul band of the same name pursuing its dream of performing with Pickett. The artist also joined the band for performances at the Los Angeles and New York film premieres.
Pickett’s last studio album, 1999’s “It’s Harder Now,” won WC Handy Awards for soul/blues album of the year and comeback album of the year, while Pickett was named soul/blues male artist of the year.
The artist is survived by his fiancé and four children. Pickett will be buried beside his mother Lena in Louisville, Ky.