Copyright ©2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Singer Wilson Pickett has died. Pickett moved hearts and feet with his 1965 hit, In the Midnight Hour.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG 'IN THE MIDNIGHT HOUR')

BLOCK: Wilson Pickett died today following a heart attack in a hospital near his home in Virginia. He was born in Prattville, Alabama, in 1941, the youngest of 11 children. He left for Detroit and began singing and writing songs with a group called the Falcons. In 1962 the group scored a hit with I Found A Love.

Wilson Pickett went on to write some of his biggest songs in a small Detroit apartment, as he told NPR, in 1999.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG 'I FOUND A LOVE')

WILSON PICKETT: I was living on Chicago Boulevard and Dexter. And I had a little bit apartment, where a little bed pulled out and had a little kitchenette, they called them. And I wrote 6-3-4-5-7-8-9, I wrote 99 1/2 and I wrote If You Need Me Call Me. I wrote all those songs, right there in that apartment.

BLOCK: But it was in Memphis that Pickett found the sound to back those lyrics.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG '6345789')

BLOCK: Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler took the singer to Memphis to record in the studios of Stax Records. The style Pickett develped there was a contrast to the smooth Motown sound — more burlap than silk.

PICKETT: I'm not a smooth singer. I'm a cornbread singer. Now, I call a cornbread singer with that rough voice that comes from the stomach, not from the throat. I sing from down here. If I sung from here with the way I sing, I would have done blew my voice a long time ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG 'MUSTANG SALLY')

BLOCK: Wilson Pickett's career slowed down in the 1970's. But it got a boost in 1991 when the film The Commitments showcased Mustang Sally and Midnight Hour. The same year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Pickett struggled with legal and substance abuse problems later in life. His last record, made five years ago, was called It's Harder Now.

Wilson Pickett died today. He was 64 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG 'MUSTANG SALLY')

BLOCK: You can hear Wilson Pickett talk about his music and his career at our website, NPR.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG 'MUSTANG SALLY')

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News.

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