The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Chuck Jackson, soul balladeer, dies at 85

- By Terence McArdle

Chuck Jackson, a hitmaking soul singer of the 1960s who combined a suave stage presence, laid-back romantic appeal and a rafter-filling voice and who recorded some of Burt Bacharach’s earliest pop compositio­ns, died Feb. 16 in Atlanta. He was 85.

Ady Croasdell of the British record label Kent, which reissued several of Mr. Jackson’s recordings, confirmed his death in a Facebook statement but did provide further details.

Mr. Jackson’s first hit, “I Don’t Want To Cry” (1961), co-written with Luther Dixon and reportedly inspired by an unfaithful girlfriend, climbed to No. 5 on the Billboard rhythm-and-blues charts and was followed by an album of the same title devoted to tear-themed lyrics.

It was the beginning of a successful string of early-1960s hits that included “I Wake Up Crying,” written by Bacharach and Hal David, “Tell Him I’m Not Home,” “Beg Me” and his duet with Maxine Brown on “Something You Got.”

Mr. Jackson’s greatest commercial success was “Any Day Now” (1962), which Bacharach wrote with lyricist Bob Hilliard. The song dealt poetically with the anticipati­on of loneliness over an impending breakup.

Aficionado­s regard those recordings by Mr. Jackson - made for Wand Records - as the pinnacle of the ‘60s New York studio rhythm-and-blues sound. Wand’s pool of freelance talent included the songwriter-andproduce­r team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Barbadianb­orn arranger Teacho Wiltshire, and Bacharach.

Mr. Jackson’s records also benefited from the backup vocals of Cissy Houston, sisters Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, and Judy Clay, all of whom had earlier sang in the gospel group the Drinkard Singers.

Leiber and Stoller used odd instrument­ations on Mr. Jackson’s records to dramatic effect, such as a combinatio­n of marimba, tambourine and triangle on “Who’s Gonna Pick Up the Pieces” or log drums on “I Keep Forgettin’” in their search for a synthesis of pop and soul.

In 1982, former Doobie Brothers singer Michael McDonald, an admirer of Mr. Jackson, recorded “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near),” a song with a similar melody and new lyrics - so similar that Leiber and Stoller were given co-writer credits with McDonald and his co-writer, Ed Sanford.

Mr. Jackson saw his career start to decline after he fell out with Wand label owner Florence Greenberg. He claimed that she rejected the songs “It’s Not Unusual” by Les Reed and Gordon Mills as well as “What’s New Pussycat” by Bacharach and David.

To his dismay, the songwriter­s pitched their work elsewhere, and both tunes became career-making signatures for the then-obscure Welsh pop singer Tom Jones.

“Tom came over to the States and spent a great deal of time with me,” Mr. Jackson told the Los Angeles Reader in 1990. “I took him to the Apollo for a week. When we first met, he had no rhythm at all, and he knew it, but he sure could sing. The next time I saw him on TV, he was like a completely different person, he projected rhythm and soul, he’d become a real artist, he was singing like he meant it.”

At the behest of Motown’s Smokey Robinson, Mr. Jackson signed with the Detroit label in 1968. In his estimation, the company did little to promote him.

“Looking back now, though, I understand where it all went wrong,” Mr. Jackson told the British publicatio­n Record Mirror in 1976. “Motown is a sound and they have to mold talent to suit that sound . . . . They were renowned for creating their own artists and, if you give it some thought, you’d be hard pushed to find any establishe­d artist who has joined the company and gone on to bigger things.”

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