WILLINGBORO, N.J. -- Singer-songwriter Jackie Wilson, whose 1958 best-seller 'Lonely Teardrops' made him a star and helped launch the career of the founder of Motown Records, died Saturday at a New Jersey hospital. He was 49.
Burlington County Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Molly Timlin said Wilson was admitted to the facility, located in Mount Holly, N.J., on Jan. 8. He died at about 11 a.m. EST, Ms. Timlin said.
Wilson's illness and information about his death was not released at the family's request, she said.
'Lonely Teardrops' was the first step to national stardom for Wilson. The song was one of the building blocks in the career of one of its writers, Berry Gordy Jr., who was to begin laying the foundation for his Motown Records empire in 1959.
'Lonely Teardrops' was No. 1 on R&B charts and a hit in Europe, becoming a million seller worldwide. Wilson had two more hits in 1959 - 'Talk That Talk' and No. 1 'You Better Know It.' By year's end he had appeared in New York's Tropicana and Los Angeles' Coconut Grove.
He started the 1960s with the million seller 'Doggin' Around' and 'Woman, a Lover, a Friend.'
He had a No. 1 hit in 1963 with 'Baby Workout.'
Wilson had chart singles in the early 1970s, including 'Helpless,' 'Let This Be A Letter To My Baby,' and 'Send A Little Song.'
Wilson, born in Detroit, began as a boxer. Saying he was 18 years old instead of 16, he entered the Golden Gloves in the late 1940s. He won his division, but his mother made him give up the sport.
He began his career by singing in Detroit clubs. In 1953, when Billy Ward, organizer of The Dominoes rhythm and blues group, was looking for a lead singer to replace Clyde McPhatter, he chose Wilson.
Wilson sang with the Dominoes for four years before leaving to go solo.