The Presentation of a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and release of a 50-song compilation album, “The Definitive Jackie Wilson,” coincides with the bereavement of Jackie Wilson’s Widow Harlean Harris Wilson
Nationwide — Harlean Harris Wilson, 81, was scheduled to make the acceptance speech at the presentation of a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her late husband, the legendary Detroit-born singer Jackie Wilson, September 4, 2019 in Hollywood. However, she passed away unexpectedly this past Saturday and in her place their son John Wilson will accepted the award for his father.
peakers and guests set for the ceremony include Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, Marshall Thompson of the Chi-Lites, and Jackie’s Goddaughter Jody Watley will be among those attending.
“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.
Prior to her unfortunate death, Harlean was involved with a forthcoming authorized biography and a documentary film about Wilson, a two-time Grammy Hall of Fame Inductee, a winner of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s special Legacy Tribute Award and Roll Hall of Fame recipient. She was very excited about the release of a 50-track compilation of remastered hits, The Definitive Jackie Wilson, available on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and all other major digital platforms.
Less than two weeks ago, esteemed music journalist Jeff Tamarkin spoke with Harlean about her life, the forthcoming projects and Jackie Wilson’s legacy. Following is her story:
More than 35 years after his death, Jackie Wilson—one of the greatest soul singers of all-time and a second-year inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—is getting some overdue recognition, and no one could be more pleased about that than his widow, Harlean Wilson. On September 4, 2019, Jackie—known in the music business as “Mr. Excitement”—will be recognized with a star on Hollywood’s fabled Walk of Fame. For Harlean, the honor is the culmination of decades of tireless work keeping the late entertainer’s name in front of the public—and protecting both his legacy and her own.
“I’m so elated for him, so ecstatic about my husband getting this star,” says Harlean. “That title Mr. Excitement wasn’t just given to him; he worked for it.”
Harlean Harris—her maiden name—was only a teenager in the early 1950s when she first came across the name Jackie Wilson. Born in White Plains, New York, in 1937, she had been serving as the president of the Billy Ward and the Dominoes Fan Club when the rhythm and blues vocal group announced that its lead singer, Clyde McPhatter, was leaving to join the Drifters. Harlean, along with many other fans, was upset by the news that a young unknown named Jackie Wilson would be taking his place.
Then Harlean went to Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater, where she heard Jackie sing. “I had never heard a black entertainer sing on Jackie’s level, at all,” she says. “Nobody had.” At first she remained solely a fan but then one day she received a call from Jackie, who had seen her picture on the cover of Ebony magazine—Harlean was modeling at the time—and remembered her from the fan club. Jackie and Harlean (who had previously dated Sam Cooke and Sammy Davis Jr.) became a couple and several years later, in May 1967, they were married.
By that time Jackie Wilson had long ago launched a solo career and logged hit after hit, both uptempo numbers and ballads, including such timeless smashes as “Lonely Teardrops,” “That’s Why I Love You So,” “Night” and “Baby Workout.” Just months after the wedding, he scored his final Top 10 single, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” In a business that chewed up artists and spit them out, Jackie Wilson’s popularity never flagged—onstage he was a virtual dynamo, as charismatic a performer as any, while in the studio he was capable, says Harlean, of “singing anything.”
Jackie, she adds, owed much of his commercial success in the music business to his dedicated producer at Brunswick Records, Nat Tarnopol, who was also the head of the label and had originally brought Jackie to New York from their shared native city of Detroit. Unlike many other African-American entertainers of the day, Wilson was treated fairly by Brunswick and Tarnopol, says Harlean, but outside of the confines of the company, that wasn’t always so: The singer and his wife were often subjected to painful, vicious rumors and untruths, legal entanglements and other indignities, including women who claimed to be linked with Jackie romantically and, later, both men and women claiming to be his children. One crazy, completely fabricated story that persisted for some time had Jackie being held outside of an upper story of a building upside down by thugs until he agreed to sign a contract.
Reality did hit them hard one evening in 1961 though, when the couple experienced a horrific close call: Jackie had been shot by a woman who was reportedly jealous of his relationship with Harlean. “Jackie had stepped outside of our apartment to get the mail and I heard what sounded like two firecrackers going off,” says Harlean. She went to investigate the noise, and found Jackie grimacing and screaming, “She shot me,” while a woman stood nearby claiming she hadn’t meant to do so. Jackie summoned enough strength to hobble outside the building, where a patrol car happened to be passing by. But rather than take the victim to a hospital, the officers chased down the shooter inside the apartment building. Fortunately, Jackie’s injuries were not fatal, but it took more than a year before he felt ready to resume his career.
Rumors aside, Jackie and Harlean did produce one child together, a son they named John, known as Petie throughout his life. The young boy’s world was shattered irrevocably when, on September 29, 1975, Jackie Wilson suffered a massive heart attack while performing at a nightclub in New Jersey. Jackie, in a coma, was rushed to a nearby hospital, where Harlean (then separated from him) and Petie were denied visitation until they were able to produce paperwork proving that they were his legitimate family.
Jackie Wilson never fully regained his ability to function; he remained in the care of others, his career cut short unexpectedly and permanently. Harlean became his caretaker, simultaneously entering into a never-ending series of legal situations that would linger long past the death of Jackie Wilson on January 21, 1984, nearly a decade after he collapsed onstage. “I was the administrator of the estate because I was his court-appointed guardian,” says Harlean, “and everybody wanted to take the estate from me, with all kinds of excuses. Everybody came out of the woodwork. The whole matter went into federal court when it first happened and it’s still going on. Jackie wasn’t a businessman.”
Despite all of the hardships she has been through, Harlean Wilson retains nothing but admiration for the man she met more than six decades ago. While she is the first to admit that there were difficulties in their marriage—“I have eyes, I could see what was going on,” Harlean says—she remembers Jackie as a man who was “very vibrant, very effervescent, generous to a fault. He loved to sing and he loved life.”
Harlean Wilson has spent a lifetime doing her best to make sure that the world remembers and knows the truth about Jackie Wilson. Now, finally, with the unveiling of his Hollywood star and other high-profile projects soon to be announced, she will have accomplished her goal.
More information at www.JackieWilsonMusic.com
Black Music Honors Dru Hill, Tevin Campbell, Mary Mary and The Whisphers
Celebrating Legendary Artists and Institutions Making a Significant Impact in African-American Music, Black Music Honors Returns to Atlanta With Co-Hosts Two-Time Grammy Winner LeToya Luckett and Comedian DeRay Davis
Central City Productions announces the 7th Annual Black Music Honors live tapping at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, Ga. on Thursday, May 19. The star-studded two-hour event will honor artists and musicians who have influenced and made significant contributions to American music.
This year’s remarkable group of honorees include Multi-Platinum, Award-Winning Supergroup Dru Hill who will receive the Urban Music Icon Award; Five-Time GRAMMY Nominee Tevin Campbell who will be honored with the R&B Icon Award and Multi-Award-Winning Gospel Duo Mary Mary will be presented with the Gospel Icon Award. NAACP Image Award-Winning Singer Karyn White will also be recognized with the Soul Music Award; Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter Keri Hilson will be honored with the Music and Songwriter Icon Award for her accomplishments penning songs for some of the biggest names in music; and the Legendary R&B Group The Whispers will take home the Legends Award for their incredible nearly six decade music career.
“We are more than excited to return to in-person taping for the first time in nearly three years with a live studio audience,” says Founder and Executive Producer, Don Jackson. “The pandemic had an unprecedented impact on the music industry and we’re honored to celebrate, commemorate and honor music trailblazers who have paved the way for the next generation of music and culture.”
Multi-hyphenate LeToya Luckett will co-host the epic night of celebration along with Chicago Actor and Comedian DeRay Davis. The televised special is set to air in national broadcast syndication Saturday, June 4 – Sunday, July 3 and on Bounce TV on Saturday, June 25. The 7th Annual Black Music Honors show is Executive Produced by Don Jackson with Jennifer J. Jackson serving as Producer and Michael A. Johnson as Producer and Director.
ABOUT BLACK MUSIC HONORS
Black Music Honors is an annual two-hour event that acknowledges the legendary African-American artists who have influenced and made significant musical contributions to African-American culture and American music worldwide. Black Music Honors is produced by Chicago-based production company Central City Productions (CCP).
For more information, visit www.blackmusichonors.com and connect on social media @blackmusichonors on Facebook and Instagram or @blackmusichonor on Twitter.
Patreon announces Pull Up
PATREON ANNOUNCES PULL UP, AN INCUBATOR AND COMMUNITY FOR CREATORS OF COLOR, WITH CREATIVE PARTNERS ISSA RAE’S HOORAE MEDIA, BLAIR IMANI, AMANDA SEALES’ SMART FUNNY & BLACK, DURAND BERNARR, AND MORE
Patreon, a membership platform for creators and their most passionate fans, announced Pull Up, an incubator and creative community to give creators of color access to capital and other resources to grow their businesses. Pull Up, powered by Patreon, is supported by and developed with some of the biggest creators of color driving culture today – including Issa Rae’s HOORAE, Blair Imani, Amanda Seales’ Smart Funny & Black, Durand Bernarr, Jade Novah, Nicole Cardoza, Tim Chantarungsu, and Tina Yu, among others.
While the creator economy is growing at an exciting pace, a 2021 study found that BIPOC creators are paid almost a third less (29%) than their white peers. To help bridge this gap, and working with creators of color, Patreon launched Pull Up, a generative ecosystem where creators of color can learn from and grow with industry leaders, and each other, to “pull up” the next generation of creatives.
“We are excited to be a part of Pull Up, powered by Patreon’s Creator Success team, who continue to be a champion for HOORAE on and off the platform,” said Issa Rae, creative partner for Pull Up powered by Patreon. “We share a core set of values in empowering creators of color with access and resources, so I’m thrilled my team and I get to be on this journey with the other creators in the initiative.”
Starting today, creators can visit pullup.patreon.com to learn more about the community and incubator and sign up to participate. Any creator can join the Pull Up Community and gain access to the Pull Up Salon Series, which is a series of community events, panels, and workshops featuring industry-leading creators of color who share how to hone your creative, entrepreneurial, and community-building skills as you grow a creative business of your own. They will also be invited to join the Pull Up community on a dedicated Discord server to connect and learn from their peers. Select Patreon creators will get the opportunity to apply to the incubator for funding.
On Wednesday, April 27, Patreon will host Pull Up Late Night, a worldwide livestream for creators, by creators. The special launch event will feature D Smoke, Nicole Cardoza, and RT TV who will introduce the program, share their creative journeys and discuss what Pull Up means to them. The event starts at 5 pm PT/8pm ET and creators can register for the event at events.patreon.com/pulluplatenight
“As a musician and creator of color, I know firsthand the challenges that many face when hustling to grow, perfect their craft and scale their businesses to be profitable,” said Hewan Abebe, Head of Creator Initiatives for the Patreon Creator Success team. “It’s these experiences that propelled me to develop Pull Up, and it is my hope that the program serves as a conduit for creators of color to retain ownership of their work, inspire community, and foster change to help generations coming up.”
For more information on Pull Up, powered by Patreon, and the upcoming public livestream event on April 27, please visit events.patreon.com/PullUpLateNight.
Mary J. Blige to Receive Prestigious Icon Award
MARY J. BLIGE TO RECEIVE PRESTIGIOUS ICON AWARD AT THE “2022 BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS”
MRC and NBC today announced that global superstar Mary J. Blige will receive the distinguished Billboard Icon Award at the “2022 Billboard Music Awards” (BBMAs). As a part of the recognition, the ten-time BBMA winner will take the stage for a breathtaking performance that will make for one of the most memorable moments of the evening. The BBMAs will broadcast live coast-to-coast from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 15 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC and will stream live on Peacock.
Blige joins just ten other artists to ever receive the prestigious Billboard Icon Award, which recognizes outstanding artists who have achieved excellence on the Billboard Charts and have made an indelible
mark on music itself. Since the award’s inauguration in 2011, past recipients include Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Cher, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Garth Brooks, and P!NK.
“My career has been such an incredible and unexpected journey that has included many turns into avenues I never could have imagined like acting, producing, launching businesses and now even my own music festival,” said Blige. “Through it all, I always one way or another gravitated back to my first love, music. To be recognized in this way at this moment, with the Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards, is an incredible honor and one that I am truly humbled by.”
Mary J. Blige truly defines what it means to be an icon with ten BBMA wins total, nine of which were won when she dominated the 2006 award show. Awards won include R&B Album of the Year (1995); Female R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year (2006); Hot 100 Airplay Song of the Year (2006); R&B Albums Artist of the Year (2006); R&B/Hip-Hop Album of the Year (2006); R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year (2006); R&B/Hip-Hop Song Airplay of the Year (2006); R&B/Hip-Hop Song of the Year (2006); R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Artist of the Year (2006); Videoclip of the Year (2006).
For more than 30 years, the BBMAs have celebrated music’s greatest achievements, honoring the hottest names in music today. Unique among music awards shows, finalists are determined by performance on the Billboard Charts. Since 1940, the Billboard Charts have been the go-to guide for ranking the popularity of artists, songs, and albums, and are the ultimate measure of success in music.
The “2022 Billboard Music Awards” is produced by MRC Live & Alternative. Robert Deaton is the executive producer. More information about the “2022 Billboard Music Awards,” including additional performers, host, presenters and more will be announced in the coming weeks.
Tickets to attend the show are open to the public. Prices per ticket start at $90 USD and are available for purchase HERE. Doors open at 6:30 P.M. ET / 3:30 P.M. PT.
For the latest news on the Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) visit billboardmusicawards.com and billboard.com/bbma. For exclusive content and more, be sure to follow the BBMAs on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube) and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #BBMAs.
ABOUT MRC LIVE & ALTERNATIVE
MRC Live & Alternative, a division of global entertainment company MRC, is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” and the “Streamy Awards.” MRC Live & Alternative owns one of the world’s most extensive and unique entertainment archive libraries with more than 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. For more information please visit: www.mrcentertainment.com.