7 Career-Defining Songs From Wilson Pickett
Wilson Pickett live in 1967 - Patrick JACQUET / Youtube
When one talks about soul music and its development, pioneer Wilson Pickett should be included in every conversation. The Detroit-trained musician was all about passionate singing, practicing his craft in the streets, and the church. It helped that Pickett looked up to icons like Little Richard, who he called as the architect of rock and roll. With that, here are some unforgettable cuts from Pickett’s career.
“Mustang Sally” (1966)
The song was written and first recorded by Mack Rice in 1965, which was inspired by Della Reese wanting to gift her drummer and bandleader with a Ford Continental, for which the drummer was teased. He replied that he wanted a Mustang, which Rice didn’t know about at first but saw it as an opportunity to write a song about it. Picket released his version the following year and beat Rice’s original version, with the former reaching #6 while the latter only made it to #15 on the US R&B Charts.
“In The Midnight Hour” (1965)
Pickett co-wrote the song with Steve Cropper, who was only familiar with the singer from few gospel songs Pickett sang on. He recalls: I found some gospel songs that Wilson Pickett had sung on. On a couple [at] the end, he goes: “I’ll see my Jesus in the midnight hour! Oh, in the midnight hour. I’ll see my Jesus in the midnight hour.” The song topped the R&B charts and reached #21 on the pop charts.
“Land of A Thousand Dances” (1962)
Famous for the repeating vocal hook on the song, “Land of a Thousand Dances” was first recorded by Chris Kenner and was covered by numerous artists soon after, Pickett included. His version was backed by the esteemed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and the Memphis Horns, which reached the top of Hot R&B charts and became his biggest pop hit at #6.
“Funky Broadway” (1967)
The song was originally written by Arlester “Dyke” Christian and recoded by his band, Dyke & the Blazers. Pickett’s version was recorded in Muscle Shoals and was produced by Jerry Wexler, topping the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, and is notable for being the first charted single that had the word “Funky” in the title.
“Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” (1967)
Probably one of the most rock and roll numbers by Pickett, “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” showcases his raw vocal power. The cut peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became one of his best-remembered live numbers.
“If You Need Me” (1963)
Picket co-wrote this lumbering ballad with a spoken sermon section and presented it to Atlantic Records, but was passed onto Solomon Burke, whose version reached #2 on the R&B charts. Pickett’s version was released under Double L Records and hit #30 on the R&B charts.
“It’s Too Late” (1963)
Peaking at #7 on the R&B charts was Picket’s first major success, “It’s Too Late”. The same title was used to name his debut album, which became the template of his future body of work. It also prompted Wexler and Atlantic Records to buy Pickett’s recording contract from Double L Records the following year.