|Born||1939 (age 74–75)
Brighton, Sussex, England
|Genres||Rock and roll, reggae, R&B, pop|
He had his first outings in clubs in his hometown but without big success. Discovered by Pye record producer Robin Blanchflower, the man who launched Carl Douglas to the top of the charts with "Kung Fu Fighting", and working with Steve Elson and Keith Rossiter in addition to Branchflower, Wakelin set about writing songs that would, he hoped, "catch people's eye"
Then he got the idea of writing a homage to the boxing champion Muhammad Ali who fought on 30 October 1974 in Kinshasa against George Foreman in a matchup known as The Rumble in the Jungle, gaining victory in the eighth round. In January 1975 Wakelin's "Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)" reached number seven in the UK Singles Chart. It reached number one in Australia and spent six months in the US Billboard Hot 100 in more than one chart run in 1975, eventually peaking at No. 21 in September of that year. Ali, however, did not approve of the song and shunned it completely. It is thought that the American success of Wakelin's song inspired DC Comics to publish the 1978 comic Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. 1975 brought a further single, "Cream Puff," backed by "Gotta Keep on Going"; it flopped, but both songs would be incorporated into Wakelin's March 1976 album, Reggae, Soul & Rock 'n' Roll.
A bigger success was "In Zaire" (also about Muhammad Ali) in 1976, which reached the charts in many parts of Europe, with the chorus "And who was the victor in the night? Elijah Mohammed's boy Ali won the fight."
After few further hits ("Africa Man", "You Turn Me On", "Dr. Frankenstein's Disco Party") his success cooled down. He re-recorded his hit "In Zaire" in different versions which had a little success. Furthermore he stayed active as a songwriter, and continued to release albums.
- Black Superman (1975)
- Reggae, Soul & Rock 'n' Roll (1976)
- In Zaire (1976)
- African Man (1976)
- Double Trouble (1978)
- Gems from the Pen (1984)
- Rock 'n' Country Blues (1996)
- From Ali to the Naz (1997)
- Sway with Me (2005)
- In Africa (2005)
- Right Before My Eyes (2006)
- No Smoking (2007)
- "Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)" (1975) – Pye 7N 45420 – US No. 21 / UK No. 7 §
- "In Zaire" (1976) – Pye 7N 45595 – UK No. 4, SA No. 3
§ – Credited to Johnny Wakelin and The Kinshasa Band
- List of performers on Top of the Pops
- List of people from Brighton and Hove
- List of 1970s one-hit wonders in the United States
- "Biography by Amy Hanson". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2 February 2009.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 589. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Billboard – Google Books. Books.google.com. 13 September 1975. Retrieved 2012-04-29.
- http://rock.co.za/files/springbok_top_20_(W).html Retrieved 11 October 2013