SPOTLIGHT: Wilson Pickett X the Beatles' HEY JUDE
Wilson Pickett was the type of singer who approached songs like a boxer stepping into the ring of a prize fight. Sometimes, Pickett charged headfirst into the heart of the track, hurling his big, powerful voice through the microphone and blasting out of speakers around the world. Other times, the singer came in quietly, stealthily circling the tune before pouncing all over the melody at the absolute most opportune moment.
In 1968, Pickett was so inspired by the Beatles song that he named his ninth studio album Hey Jude, released in 1969. It's a record recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama, featuring a clutch of stellar musicians at their prime. Among them: a young Duane Allman, making some of his very first recordings as a studio guitarist on the album. Allman's exceptional playing matched Pickett's powerful voice on the Beatles cover, making for a poignant musical statement.
Pickett's version was a hit, climbing as high as #23 on the Hot 100, and all the way up to #13 on the R&B Singles chart. The track is famous for catching the ear of Eric Clapton, inspiring the guitar legend to tap Allman for the Derek and the Dominos project. Muscle Shoals guitarist and member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section even went so far as to pinpoint the track as the birth of what became known as "Southern Rock."