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
Rapper Biz Markie Dead at 57
Born Marcel Theo Hall, he was known around the world and in Hip Hop as rapper Biz Markie a.k.a the “Clown Prince.” Unlike other rappers of his time, his fun and humorous lyrical style made him a household name that spanned generations. Best known for his most memorable 1989 hit single ‘Just a Friend’ became a top 40 hit in several countries and an anthem even for dating skeptics. Markie was a talented rapper, human beatboxer, singer-songwriter, DJ, and record producer. He also did some acting, appearing and guess starring in movies and various television episodes.
Markie reportedly battled some heath issues over the years and suffered complications from diabetes, peacefully passing July 16, 2021. He leaves to mourn his wife Tara who was by his side the evening he passed.
BAD DAD REHAB: THE NEXT SESSION
Following the success of its popular film BAD DAD REHAB, TV One recently announced the premiere of BAD DAD REHAB: THE NEXT SESSION. The film features a brand-new cast that includes rapper Anthony “Big Daddy Kane” Hardy (Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, Dead Heist)as Owen, Lamman Rucker (“Greenleaf”, “Why Did I Get Married”) as Mr. Arnold, Blue Kimble (“Monogamy,” “Ruthless”) as Chauncey, Onye Eme-Akwari (“Queen of the South”) as Marshall, Carlo Mendez (“90210,” “Parks and Recreation”) as Hosea, Chrystale Wilson(“The Rich and the Ruthless”) as Marjory. The film will air on Sunday, June 20 at 8 P.M. ET/7C.
BAD DAD REHAB: THE NEXT SESSION follows the new class of Bad Dads hailing from Jersey City, New Jersey who must confront their personal demons in order to get their act together and become better dads. Hosea (Mendez) is more concerned about being his rebellious son’s best friend than disciplining him. Marshall (Eme-Akwari) works pyramid schemes in his mancave instead of helping his frustrated wife and son. Chaucey (Kimble) holds a grudge against his ex-girlfriend oblivious that it’s hurting their young daughter. Owen (Hardy) spent thirty years denying his daughter from an affair but now wants to make amends before her impending wedding.
Bad Dad Rehab: The Next Session is written by Keronda McKnight, directed by Juwan Lee with casting by George Pierre. The film is produced for TV One by Swirl Films with Eric Tomosunas, Keith Neal, Ron Robinson and James Sepplefrick serving as Executive Producers. For TV One, Jason Ryan is the Executive Producer in Charge of Production, Donyell McCullough is Senior Director of Talent & Casting and Robyn Greene Arrington is Vice President of Original Programming and Production.
Complimentary One-day Ticket To Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is partnering with SA Metro Health to give away 20,000 one-day tickets – over $1.5 million in value – to people who get a COVID-19 vaccination at any Metro Health or partner vaccine clinic.
Beginning Tuesday, May 25, individuals who get vaccinated at any of these clinics will receive a complimentary one-day ticket to Six Flags Fiesta Texas valid through Sept 6, 2021 to enjoy a fun day at the park.
“Six Flags Fiesta Texas is honored to partner with city leaders to encourage residents to get vaccinated, especially in underserved communities,” said Park President Jeffrey Siebert. “We appreciate Mayor Nirenberg’s leadership on this initiative and we look forward to partnering with the City of San Antonio Metro Health to assist with their vaccine campaign efforts.”
Metro Health will also share the theme park tickets with its partners – including UT Health San Antonio, University Health System, University of the Incarnate Word, WellMed, San Antonio Fire Department, Bexar County Health Collaborative and Curative – to give to those who receive their vaccine at designated vaccine clinics.
“With so many people who enjoy visiting Six Flags Fiesta Texas each year, we hope people take advantage of this generous ticket giveaway and go get vaccinated. This could mean that 20,000 more residents get vaccinated to help us end the pandemic,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
As a reminder, people can get vaccinated either by walk-in or appointment at the Alamodome drive-thru clinic from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday.
For a list of locations of Metro Health vaccine clinics around the city, visit http://covid19.sanantonio.gov.
For more information about Six Flags Fiesta Texas, including operating hours, visit https://www.sixflags.com/fiestatexas.