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Heatwave Founder Johnnie Wilder Jr.


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Heatwave Founder Johnnie Wilder Jr.

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Johnnie Wilder Jr.

CLAYTON, Ohio - Johnnie Wilder Jr., the soulful lead singer of the R&B band, Heatwave, who continued singing after being paralyzed in a car accident, died Saturday, May 13, his daughter reported. He was 56.

Wilder founded Heatwave, which produced "Always and Forever" and other hits, with his brother, Keith Wilder. The band was nominated twice for Grammys. In 1976, the group soared to the top of the R&B and pop charts with "Boogie Nights" and "Always and Forever," among other hits off the "Too Hot To Handle" album.

Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Wilder's principal alliance with music was his involvement with his high school glee club. After graduating, he served three years in the military in Germany and formed a five man vocal group that performed in military and civilian clubs overseas. After their tour of duty ended, the original group restructured and migrated to West Germany.

The band went through numerous name changes: from Heat Wave to Johnnie Wilder Jr. and the Chicago Heatwave and back to Heatwave again. The band actively performed throughout Europe, eventually, relocating to England, where they released the original single, "Boogie Nights." The song reached #1 in London and the group was signed with CBS records.

In February 1979, a van struck Wilder's car, paralyzing him from the neck down and hospitalizing him for a year. He went on to record other albums with the group and later began a gospel career, singing a cappella on the albums "My Goal" and "One More Day." Wilder also produced eight other vocal artists and became one of the most sought after producers of acappella gospel music in the country.

Wilder was the recipient of four CAMA Awards as well as two Grammy nominations. Like many gospel artists, he affirmed his motivation as simply "seeking no glory or admiration, initially just wanting to do a project to God's glory." That initial effort left an indelible imprint in the world of acappella music and its sound forever.

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