Since 1985 singer Freddie Jackson has recorded a string of pop hits, his romantic ballads especially capturing the hearts of female listeners. His debut album, Rock Me Tonight, was the number-one soul album for sixteen straight weeks, and his second LP, Just Like the First Time, also went platinum. Rolling Stone record critic Rob Hoerburger described Jackson as the “perfected . . . vocal persona of the smooth-sailing love man eager to please and be pleased.” In his article for Rolling Stone on the new male soul singers, Vince Aletti similarly observed that like fellow love balladeer Luther Vandross, Jackson taps the “pure pop romanticism that’s at the heart of contemporary soul.” But where Vandross distinguishes his love songs with his vocal virtuosity, “Jackson is more the pillow-talking love man,” wrote Aletti, trading “showoffy moves” for “hushed intimacy” and “trust-in-me sincerity.” New York Times writer Peter Watrous agreed: “Mr. Jackson … is one of black pop’s most elegant performers, a singer who can turn a heartbreak ballad into a world view.”
The third of five children, growing up poor in New York’s Harlem, Jackson got his musical start as a gospel singer at Mt. Nebo Baptist Church. A child soloist, the singer sometimes moved the congregation to tears—learning early how to captivate an audience. Later discovered by singer Melba Moore while performing in a New York nightclub, Jackson toured with her as a back-up vocalist in the mid-1980s, his cameo solos sparking the interest of industry heavyweights and audiences alike. As a solo artist, Jackson has enjoyed consistent success with best-selling recordings and sold-out concerts (often showcasing the work of rising young songwriters), his polished presentation and pure tones appealing to both blacks and whites.
Aletti views Freddie Jackson’s mainstream success as a continuation of the 1980s phenomenon of black “crossover” artists. Led by Michael Jackson and Prince with their megahits Thriller and Purple Rain, Freddie Jackson joins the ranks of pop stars Lionel Richie and Whitney Houston, enjoying the fame and fortune that mainstream popularity brings. Detecting a renewed appreciation in eighties listeners for “the richness of soul vocal styling”—a “nostalgia for stylized, well-crafted vocals in a modern, unironic, often lushly emotional mood”—Aletti holds this “neoclassicism” responsible for the ease with which Freddie Jackson, and other black vocalists like him, have climbed both soul and pop charts. While the singer acknowledged some difficulties in “crossing over” in his interview with Watrous (black radio, for instance, has pressured him for more ethnocentric music), Freddie Jackson explained: “My music is for people who like to hold hands in concert.…
Born c. 1958; raised in New York, N.Y.
Child Soloist at Mt Nebo Baptist Church in Harlem; later sang at White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem; worked as a word processor; nightclub performer in New York; back-up vocalist and cameo soloist touring with singer Melba Moore, c 1984; performed and recorded with Los Angeles funk group Mystic Merlin prior to launching solo career; solo recording artist and concert performer, 1985—; concert appearances include Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theater; composer of songs with Paul Laurence; appeared in motion picture King of New York.
Awards: American Black Gold Award for outstanding male artist, 1986.
Addresses: Home —New York, N.Y.; and Poconos Mountains, Pa.
Record Company —Capitol Records, 1750 N. Vine St., Los Angeles, Calif., 90028.
It’s intimate. With all the racial tension going on today, all the hate, my songs, which are about love, make more sense than ever.”
Rock Me Tonight, Capitol, 1985.
Just Like the First Time, Capitol 1987.
Don’t Let Love Slip Away, Capitol, 1988.
Ebony, November, 1988, February, 1989.
Jet, November 4, 1985.
New York Times, September 6, 1989.
People, September 5, 1988, June 26, 1989.
Rolling Stone, March 12, 1987, October 6, 1988.
Variety, May 13, 1987.
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