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
New Highly Anticipated Season Premiere
All-new episodes of TV One’s original docu-series, “UNSUNG” and “UNCENSORED” debut Sunday, September 25. “UNSUNG” leads with R&B legend Tony Terry at 9 p.m. ET/8C followed by “UNCENSORED” featuring award-winning actor and entertainer Kadeem Hardison at 10 p.m. ET/9C. Each episode will be published on TV One’s website TVOne.tv. “UNSUNG,” one of the network’s longest-running and seven-time NAACP Image Award-winning series, highlights the careers and explores the personal lives of some of the most talented and influential Black artists, performers and musicians in history. On this season’s premiere episode, singer Tony Terry shares the journey of his early success, experiencing longevity in the entertainment industry and clears the air in his own words.
The season also includes:
“Women Take The Mic” Sunday, October 2
Reggae Revolutions Sunday, October 9
Jean Carn Sunday, October 16
Warryn Campbell Sunday, October 23
Norman Conners Sunday, October 30
Solar Records Sunday, November 6
“UNSUNG” is narrated by actor Gary Anthony Williams and is executive produced by Frank Sinton and Arthur Smith of A. Smith & Co. Productions. Mark Rowland, Kysha Mounia and Jamecia Blount also serve as Executive Producers. For TV One, Austyn Biggers is the SVP of Programming and Jason Ryan is the Executive Producer in Charge of Production.
Directly following “UNSUNG” is the return of the hit, autobiographical series “UNCENSORED,” which explores the lives of popular celebrities and personalities as they provide first-hand accounts of their successes and the obstacles they faced throughout their careers. The premiere episode highlights award-winning actor Kadeem Hardison. While best known for his iconic role as Dwayne Wayne in the classic “A Different World,” Kadeem transparently and authentically shares the story of his nearly four-decade career.
This season also includes:
Keshia Knight Pulliam Sunday, October 2
Tyson Beckford Sunday, October 9
Garcelle Beauvais Sunday, October 16
KeKe Wyatt Sunday, October 23
Mario Van Peebles Sunday, October 30
Deon Cole Sunday, November 6
“UNCENSORED” is produced for TV One by Eric Tomosunas, Keith Neal, and James Seppelfrick (Executive Producers), Jay Allen and Nikki Byles (Co-Executive Producers), and Rachel Valley (Producer) of Swirl Films. For TV One, Austyn Biggers is the SVP of Programming and Jason Ryan is the Executive Producer in Charge of Production.
For more information on “UNCENSORED” and “UNSUNG,” visit TV One’s YouTube Channel and check out exclusive, behind-the-scenes content on http://www.tvone.tv. Viewers can also join the conversation by connecting via social media on TV One’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (@tvonetv) Be sure to follow “UNCENSORED” & “UNSUNG” on Facebook and Instagram (@UncensoredTVOne) using the hashtag #UncensoredTVOne and #UNSUNG.
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This year at the 2022 Emmy Awards black actors and writers made their presence known. It was an extraordinary night at the Emmys with wins for the history books in major categories. Abbott Elementary and cast members walked away with Emmys including Quinta Brunson, Writing for a Comedy Series and Cheryl Lee Ralph who picked up her first-ever Emmy for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Abbott Elementary). Ralph portrays Mrs. Howard, a tough but loving kindergarten teacher.
Actress Zendaya won her second Emmy for her role in HBO’s hit “Euphoria.” She made history because at age 26 she became the youngest to win two Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. (Her first Emmy was won in 2020 in the same category for her portrayal of troubled teen Rue Bennett.) Lizzo’s “Watch Out for the Big Grrls” won in the Competition Program category, and Jerrod Carmichael won his first Emmy for Writing for a Variety Special Rothaniel.
The 39th Annual Jazz’SAlive
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – The City of San Antonio’s Official Jazz Music Festival is ensuring Jazz Is Alive in San Antonio! The San Antonio Parks Foundation, in partnership with The City of San Antonio and Michelob Ultra, present the 39th Annual Jazz’SAlive Festival on September 23 and 24 in downtown San Antonio. In addition to stages in historic Travis Park, for the second consecutive year, festival organizers will program a stage at Legacy Park. The San Antonio Parks Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) organization providing improvements to parks and the park experience to the area’s 250+ parks and over 150 miles of walking and biking trails.
Jazz’SAlive General Admission is free, all ages, and open to the public! No outside food or beverage is allowed. Tickets are available for premium seating and VIP areas.
Jazz’SAlive offers a limited number of premium Patron Seats at the main stage for those who want to upgrade their viewing experience and leave the lawn chairs at home. Patron Seats are sold as single-day tickets. Fans who wish to have a Patron Seat on both Friday and Saturday will need to purchase a ticket for each day. Each ticket includes 1 priority seat the main stage in Travis Park with access to a cash bar and cocktail service.
For more information visit https://saparksfoundation.org/event/jazzsalive/,
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