The art of writing bios is no easy feat, but for British-born/NY-based scribe Tony Fletcher, well, he makes it seem all so easy even though his research is exhaustive. His bios on R.E.M (Remarks Remade - The Story of R.E.M.), Keith Moon (Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon), The Smiths (A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths, to name but a few, are must-reads. His latest on the turbulent life of R&B legend Wilson Pickett -- In the Midnight Hour: The Life & Soul of Wilson Pickett -- may be his best yet.
For the charismatic '60s crossover icon "Wicked" Wilson Pickett, Fletcher pulls no punches with interviews with his family, business partners, musicians, etc., to shed light on his troubled legacy. Amazingly, this is the first-ever bio on the R&B maverick who had some 50 Billboard charting songs, including well-known hits like "Mustang Sally," "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "634-5789," and "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You." The book lays bare in detail Wilson's troubled soul and how he let his over-consumption of life, all the good and bad, leech into his own personal life causing stress and strife for all who entered his orbit.
The book also serves as a social commentary -- civil rights movement, the rise and crossover of R&B music -- of a certain era and for those of us who remember that time period it comes as no surprise. And if you're a guitarist, what a treat to learn about all the amazing musicians who played on his records. Greats like Steve Cropper, Reggie Young, Duane Allman(!), Bobby Womack (who co-wrote songs with him), the very funky Dennis Coffey (wah-wah on The Temptations' "Psychedelic Shack," et al.); even NYC-based guitar hero Marc Ribot, a Tom Waits staple, toured with him in the '80s. But towards the end of his life, the Rock 'n' Roll Hal of Famer would succumb to the demons that fueled his life, spend time in jail, find religion (again), and suffer health problems. Pickett would eventually succumb to a heart attack in early January 2006 at the age of 64. Thankfully, Mr. Fletcher has documented his numerous conquests as well as his failures in this most-excellent bio.
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