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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Al Wilson, 1939-2008

Veteran singer Al Wilson, a versatile performer who recorded rock, spirituals, blues, and soul, but is best known for his #1 hit "Show and Tell," died Monday night. He was 68.

Most of you probably know "Show and Tell," an epochal 70s soul ballad with a slow-burning groove, funky clavinet, and a chorus that scales pop heaven. So to honor Wilson I'll feature his first hit single (#27, U.S.), 1967's "The Snake."

This classic has many devotees on the Northern Soul scene, though to be fair, plenty of big-time soul fans think it's overrated. It's always worked for me. Not only do I enjoy this record's tight, well-played backing (probably featuring some of the great L.A. musicians who also played on Johnny Rivers' records, since this disc was done for his Soul City label), the lyrics are also sociologically fascinating. And Wilson sings the hell out of them.

The story concerns a woman who finds an injured snake and takes him in. She nurses him back to health, but overplays her hand...I wonder if this is an old legend, because it certainly sounds like one.

R.I.P., Mr. Wilson.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


DEAR MRS.WILSON AND FAMILY,MAY EACH MONENT BE FILL WITH GENTLENESS MAY VOICES BE SOFT AND COMFORTING. MAY FAMILIAR HEARTS EMBRACE YOU AND FAMILY with love. WE 'RE PRAYING THAT GOD will continue to comfort you and grant you peace ." may all of the sweet and treasured memories be with you and family always."

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas

10:52 AM, April 24, 2008

Anonymous Dan E said...

God, I hate this song - but I'm a huge fan of Al Wilson's other stuff. A supremely underrated singer, to be sure...

10:58 AM, April 24, 2008

Blogger Stuart Shea said...

That's so interesting. You're not the only person I know who literally HATES the song. Why is it? Expound, extrapolate, exposit!
BTW, ace post today on Al on YOUR site.

2:02 PM, April 24, 2008

Anonymous Dan E said...

Thanks, man. And since you axed, here's my beef with "The Snake":

The melody is almost non-existent, yet somehow manages to stick (most annoyingly) in my head. The story (especially the "twist" at the end) loses its charm after a listen or two, and the melody (see earlier complaint) isn't strong enough to distract you from the triteness of the lyrics. Also, knowing what a great singer Al was, I always feel his talents were kind of wasted on this song. I could see Johnny Rivers doing it (maybe he even did?), but Al deserved better material.

6:32 PM, April 24, 2008

Blogger Bob Purse said...

Can't fathom that comment at all! This is easily the best of his hits, by a country mile. It swings and moves, and his voice is unbelievably cool in construction and arrangement, as good in its own way as Rivers' "Secret Agent Man", which is a 10 in my book. "Show and Tell", on the other hand, for example, I could have done without entirely.

7:33 PM, April 24, 2008


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