Friday, October 21, 2011

Billy busts, Jackie slides

Billy's keyboard credentials are unimpeachable. But you already know this. (I've gone on about him before.) Never was there a more hallowed sideman. (Check his credits here.) You also know that he had a handful of hits, wrote a standard, was more than a capable singer, a dynamic performer, and he could dance.

Yes he could.

The exuberance goes practically viral here. There's an explosion in his nerve center that splatters out to his hands and feet. It's a dance like James Brown trying to move a scorpion through his shirt without getting stung. A move Jagger might've tried if he only had Preston's chops. (Or course, Jagger would process Brown's moves into his own spastic brand of monkey steez®. 40 years later, that steez gets a song. )

That yellow suit is fly, too.

Master showman, "Mr Excitement", the O.G. singer of soul, Jackie Wilson was the pivot that moved R&B into Soul. Wilson's career began at the same time as James Brown's but it'd be Wilson who'd find his mojo first. He'd a succession of singles hit beginning in 1957. Though Brown was recording and performing extensively at this time, his funk wouldn't ripen until at least 1963 which was just about the time Wilson's faded. Brown's "hardest working man in show business" stage style was the yang to Wilson's cooler and more subdued yin. Brown for his part was a dance genius. (Some proof here.) Much of his signature style follows a thread through a history of various stage dance styles, mostly tap (although a more sexed tap than any tap you'll ever see anywhere else). Wilson for his part seems to sweat confidence. Throughout his entire performance above his face has the distracted look of a guy who believes his night is going to get better later.

It may be difficult to decipher exactly who was first; it's been argued that it was Wilson who copped Brown's moves. Maybe. But whoever was first, it's clear they both reached deep into the same trick bag. Though they both added their own stuff to the bag, the bag was deeper than both them.

No comments: