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Funk Legend Keith Wilder Of Heatwave Dead At 65

The life of the popular Heatwave singer Keith Wilder came to an end on Sunday.

TMZ reported that, according to the 65-year-old musician’s cousin and bandmate Billy Jones, he died in his sleep. At last report, authorities had not determined the cause of death, though Wilder had been dealing with various ailments.

The vocalist and his brother, John Wilder Jr., became legends of funk, disco and soul after forming Heatwave in 1975. The following year, they released the album “Too Hot to Handle,” which made it to No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The record featured the song “Boogie Nights,” which reached No. 2 on Britain’s pop music chart; the ballad “Always and Forever,” a platinum smash that topped out at No. 18 on Billboard; “Ain’t No Half Steppin’”; and “Sho’nuff Must Be Luv.”

Five more albums came out between 1976 and 1988, including “Central Heating” and “Hot Property.” The 1977 tune “The Groove Line” was another top-10 hit. The New York Daily News noted that the band earned two Grammy nominations during its 13-year run, but never won the award.

Responding to Wilder’s death, Jones told Dayton.com: “I am at a loss for words. We are going to miss his voice. He had a great voice, but we can always put on a record and hear it.” Wilder was a Dayton, Ohio, native. Producer Quincy Jones told Rolling Stone: “He had an excellent compositional instinct and wrote great music because he had absorbed it.”

Questlove, the drummer for the band The Roots, posted this message on Instagram: “Keith sang on ALOT of my fav Heatwave joints (‘Boogie Nights,’ ‘Groove Line,’ ‘One Night Tan’ & the dramatic epic ‘Therm Warfare’). He was the gruff voiced counterpart to his younger brother’s velvet smoothness. Edwards to Kendricks, Jermaine to Michael, Gorrie to Stuart, White to Bailey, Levert to Williams, practically EVERY monster soul group gave you more than one vocalist to focus on.”

Heatwave member Keith Harrison, who had been a friend of Wilder since they were in high school, told Rolling Stone: “He was a man of standards, class act, great entertainer and had a great sense of humor. He will greatly be missed.”

John Wilder Jr., along with songwriter and piano player Rod Temperton, started the band in England. They initially called themselves Chicago’s Heatwave, performing mostly in the London area. The group soon grew to include not only Keith Wilder, but also drummer “Bilbo” Berger of Czechoslovakia, bass player Mario Mantese of Switzerland, guitarist Eric Johns of Jamaica and guitarist Roy Carter of the United Kingdom.

After the band broke up, the Wilder brothers and Temperton released two more albums, “Candle” and “Current,” in 1981 and 1982. They went on tour with J.D. Nicholas, who later sang for the Commodores. Temperton wrote songs for Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, George Benson and others before his death last year. In 1988, Keith Wilder and Billy Jones released the album “The Fire.” During the 1990s, the late singer hit the road again and put out a live album. His brother died in 2006.

Source: NY Daily News, TMZ
Photo: Wikimedia, YouTube

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