Wilson Pickett, the R&B legend who sang 'Mustang Sally', dies

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The Independent Culture

The R&B legend Wilson Pickett, famous for thumping hits such as "Mustang Sally" and "In The Midnight Hour", died yesterday after a suffering a heart attack. He was aged 64 and had been in declining health for the last year.

Chris Tuthill, a spokes-man for Pickett's management company, Talent Source, said the singer died at a hospital close to his home in northern Virginia, where he was taken after the attack. Few other details were available.

"He did his part. It was a great ride, a great trip, I loved him and I'm sure he was well-loved, and I just hope that he's given his props," Michael Wilson Pickett, one of the singer's six children told a local television station.

Pickett found fame during the 1960s when he moved from Alabama to the increasingly busy music city of Detroit and joined a group called the Falcons. He sang on one of the group's early hits "I Found a Love" and had soon won a solo deal with Atlantic Records.

It was with Atlantic that Pickett enjoyed a slew of soul hits including "Midnight Hour", which he co-wrote with session musician Steve Cropper, "Land of 1,000 Dances", "Funky Broadway", "She's Lookin' Good" and "Mustang Sally".

In the 1970s he scored three consecutive Top 20 hits with "Engine Number 9", "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" and "Don't Knock My Love Pt 1".

Though Pickett continued to record into the mid 1980s it is probably fair to say that by then his mustang was beginning to slow down. His fortunes were helped, however, by the runaway success of Alan Parker's 1991 film The Commitments, based on the novel by Roddy Doyle which follows the fortunes of a struggling Irish band who turn to soul music to try and turn around their luck.

The film featured a memorable line about the essence of soul music by the character Jimmy Rabbitte, who declared: "Soul is the music people understand. Sure it's basic and it's simple. But it's something else, because it's honest, that's it. Its honest. There's no fucking bullshit. It sticks its neck out and says it straight from the heart."

The same year the film was released, Pickett was further rewarded for saying it straight from the heart when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The artist known as "Wicked Pickett" also joined the band for performances at the LA and New York premieres of the film.

Pickett's LA-based manager, Margo Lewis, said last night the singer had continued to perform in public regularly until about a year ago when he started to suffer from health problems. He had also suffered from legal difficulties and substance abuse. His last studio album was 1999's It's Harder Now, which won WC Handy Awards for both soul/blues album of the year and comeback album oof the year.

During his career, Pickett had five Number One hits on the Billboard R&B chart and worked with some of the top session musicians of the age. He was a frequent visitor to the famous Stax recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee and and Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama.

Pickett is survived by his fiancé and four children. It is anticipated that he will buried beside his mother Lena in Louisville, Kentucky.

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