Jimmy Soul

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Jimmy Soul
Birth nameJames Louis McCleese
Born(1942-08-24)August 24, 1942
Weldon, North Carolina, United States
DiedJune 25, 1988(1988-06-25) (aged 45)
Spring Valley, New York, United States
GenresPop, soul

Jimmy Soul (August 24, 1942 – June 25, 1988)[1] was an American vocalist. He is best remembered for his 1963 number one hit, "If You Wanna Be Happy."


Born James Louis McCleese in Weldon, North Carolina,[1] he became a preacher at the age of seven[2] and performed gospel music as a teenager. He acquired his performing name, "Soul," from his congregation.[3]

Soul took to the road and toured the southern United States as a member of various gospel groups. During this time he became popular around the Norfolk, Virginia area.[3] It was here that Soul was scouted by Frank Guida and recruited to sing songs handpicked for one of Guida's other hit artists, Gary U.S. Bonds.


Soul had only two chart hit singles, both of which were Bonds's cast-offs. They were on the SPQR label, distributed by London Records. The first was "Twistin' Matilda" in 1962. The other was the Billboard Hot 100 number one hit "If You Wanna Be Happy" in 1963. The latter was based on the calypso "Ugly Woman," by Roaring Lion.

"If You Wanna Be Happy" sold over one million records, earning gold disc status.[4] It had two spells in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #39 (1963) and #68 (1991) respectively.[5]

Later years[edit]

After unsuccessfully trying to follow up the success of those songs with one more album, Soul gave up his career as a musician and joined the United States Army.

Later in life, Soul fell into a drug habit, and on January 9, 1986 was sentenced to 4 and a half to 9 years in prison as a second felony offender, convicted of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The sentence was affirmed upon appeals on October 26, 1987 and March 22, 1988.

Soul died of a presumably drug-related heart attack on June 25, 1988, aged 45.[1]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Thedeadrockstarsclub.com Accessed March 2010
  2. ^ "ArtistDirect.com: Jimmy Soul Biography" Accessed November 2012
  3. ^ a b "Oldies.com: Jimmy Soul Biography" Accessed November 2012
  4. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 515. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.