This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #277: In The Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett.
If The Blues are the foundation of Rock n’ Roll then, Gospel plays the same role for Soul Music. The list of great Soul singers who got their start singing in church basements and choirs is seemingly endless and includes stars such as Ben E. King, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Little Stevie Wonder and, the subject of today’s post, Wilson Pickett.
Like many performers in the 1950s, Pickett began his career as purely a Gospel singer. Whenever he sang in public, it would be songs that praised God. Pickett was known for his soulful voice and word soon spread of this handsome man with the deep, rich singing style. Before long, he came to the attention of the producers who owned and operated Stax Records. Now, Stax records may sound familiar to those of you who have been following along with these posts. Stax Records, along with Chess Records out of Chicago, was one of the main record labels who signed Black singers in the 1950s. *(This was years ago, before Motown came to be). In any case, Stax Records employed a “house band” known as Booker T. and the MGs. What being a house band meant was that the members of the MGs (Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Al Jackson) often sat in as session players for singers who were brought in to sing/record new songs. This was the case with Wilson Pickett. Pickett had sung with various Gospel groups such as The Violinaires and The Falcons prior to coming to Stax but it was during his initial recording sessions that the MGs (Steve Cropper, in particular) fleshed out the lyrics and music that formed the core of a song called, “In The Midnight Hour”.
“In The Midnight Hour” was Pickett’s first big hit but, it was not his only hit. He charted with “Land of 1000 Dances”, “634-5789 (Soulville, USA), “Mustang Sally”, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” and many more. Not surprisingly because of the times in the early 1960s, but “In The Midnight Hour” was banned in many parts of the US for the suggestiveness of the lyrics. This came as a shock to those who knew Pickett as a religious man.
“Wicked” Wilson Pickett, as he became known, was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. From a religious man singing gospel, to being a famous music star singing Soul, Wilson Pickett enjoyed a long and successful career. He passed away in 2006 at age 64. At his funeral, Little Richard (one of Pickett’s idols) presided over the service. For now, I leave you with, “In The Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “In The Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “In The Midnight Hour”, as seen in the movie, “The Commitments”, can be found here. ***Please note, in the movie, the actors who sing in this video also sang another Pickett song, “Mustang Sally”. Although Wilson Pickett never appears in the movie, he is mentioned by the singers a lot and is a spiritual presence throughout the film.
The link to the official website for Wilson Pickett, can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP. for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their fabulous website can be found here.