Thursday’s Top Tune Throwback: Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher and Higher’

An individual who left this world far too early (age 49) definitely left his mark on the world’s music scene. For the soul singer known for his tenor, four octave vocal range and showmanship onstage performances, the title of “Mr. Excitement” was well deserved.

This past week, we lost another great individual, William M. “Bill” Cox, former Mayor of Madisonville, Kentucky, and a mentor to me for many years. Mayor Cox often told me about all of his fun experiences as a Kappa Sig at UK and all the great parties. Jackie Wilson and “Higher and Higher” were among his all-time favorites for artists and songs. Every time I hear this classic, I fondly remember the Mayor. Boss, you will be greatly missed by many.

Jackie actually began his historic run with the group “Billy Ward and His Dominoes,” replacing Clyde McPhatter who left the Dominoes to form another legendary group, “The Drifters.” Jackie went solo in 1957 and tallied 50 hit singles including 16 R&B Top Ten’s plus six No. 1’s. Jackie was active on the charts between 1953 and 1975 placing 14 Top Twenty songs on Billboard’s Hot 100. “Higher and Higher” reached only No. 6 in 1967, the complete title “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher,” written by Gary Jackson and Carl Smith.

Several other of Jackie’s classic hits include “Lonely Teardrops” (1958), “Alone At Last” (1960) and “Baby Workout” (1963). Jackie’s mom was from Columbus, Mississippi, a city he visited often. Born into a music family (Jackie’s father was a singer/songwriter), his cousin, Levi Stubbs, lead another famous group, “The Four Tops.”

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Jackie No. 69 on their 100 Greatest Artists of All-time. He was twice a Grammy Hall of Fame inductee and in 1987, gained admittance into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Jackie was credited with inspiring the careers of Elvis, James Brown and Michael Jackson.

Jackie Wilson, referred to as one of the most dynamic and influential singer/performers in both R&B and rock and roll history, will never be forgotten. Neither will William M. Cox for those of us fortunate to have crossed his path. 


Steve VassalloSteve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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