"Little Willie John is the soul singer's soul singer." -- Marvin Gaye
"My mother told me, if you call yourself 'Little' Stevie Wonder, you'd better be as good as Little Willie John." -- Stevie Wonder
Little Willie John was induced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Before Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson, The Temptations, Levi Stubbs and The Four Tops and The Supremes there was John. He is best known for his hit "Fever" which has been covered by Beyonce and Peggy Lee. The Beatles covered his song "Leave My Kitten Alone." The legendary H. B. Barnum, says, "In bad voice, he could out-sing anybody." Barnum should know having been Aretha Franklin's musical director for nearly three decades.
Little Willie John lived for a fleeting 30 years, but his dynamic and daring sound left an indelible mark on the history of music. His deep blues, rollicking rock 'n' roll, and swinging ballads inspired a generation of musicians, forming the basis for what we now know as soul music.
The soaring heights of Little Willie John's career are matched only by the tragic events of his death, cutting short a life so full of promise. Charged with a violent crime in the late 1960s, an abbreviated trial saw Willie convicted and incarcerated in Walla Walla Washington, where he died under mysterious circumstances in 1968.
In this, the first official biography of one of the most important figures in rhythm & blues history, author Susan Whitall, with the help of Little Willie John's eldest son Kevin John, has interviewed some of the biggest names in the music industry and delved into the personal archive of the John family to produce an unprecedented account of the man who invented soul music.