An Old School Lesson


Exceptional story telling informs as well as entertains. The Black Ensemble Theater on Chicago’s north side accomplished just that with a reproduction of the Jackie Wilson story. I’m an old school music enthusiast, but my reach doesn’t span the 1960’s – Jackie Wilson’s heyday. Apparently, Mr. Excitement’s influence can be directly linked to fan favorites like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.

Jackie Wilson’s onstage performances were electrifying, groundbreaking, and often reduced female fans to screaming fits of intimate clothing projectiles (or so I hear). His offstage financial management chops were, however, less than stellar.


“I don’t care about business, I just want to sing!’ A line delivered as the play focused on the financial mismanagement rampant throughout his career. At one point, IRS statements show an annual income of $260,000 in a time when the average was $5,000 a year. In 1984, after being comatose for nearly 9 years, Jackie Wilson died owing $300,000 in debt.

His life story is interesting, yet tragic; and there are many lessons to glean. This is one more example showing the amount of money one makes is less important than how one manages the money they have.



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