|Born||1939 (age 80–81)|
Brighton, East 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 UK Singles Chart 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"
"Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)"
In late 1972, Wakelin wrote and recorded the original version of the song, under the title "Hungarian Superman (Joe Bugner)" as an homage to the Hungarian-born British-Australian boxer by that name. The single failed to chart, and in 1973 Bugner lost 12-round decisions to former heavyweight champions Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
Wakelin got the idea of reworking the original song as a homage to Bugner's rival, the boxing champion Muhammad Ali who fought on 30 October 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire, against George Foreman in a matchup known as The Rumble in the Jungle. Ali gained victory in the eighth round. Wakelin modified the song's original Eastern-European polka rhythm to reggae at a time when West Indian music was growing in popularity. The new song was Wakelin's "Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)" released in late 1974.
In January 1975 the song reached number seven in singles charts of both UK and Australia. It also 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.
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 the 1974 fight, which reached the charts in many parts of Europe in 1976, with the chorus "And who was the victor in the night? Elijah Muhammad's boy Ali won the fight."
After few further releases ("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)
- "Hungarian Superman (Joe Bugner)" (1972) § – Pye 7N 45369
- "Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)" (1975) § – Pye 7N 45420 – US No. 21 / UK No. 7 / AU No. 7
- "Tennessee Hero (Elvis)" (1975) – Pye 7N 45460 – AU No. 50
- "In Zaire" (1976) – Pye 7N 45595 – UK No. 4 / SA No. 3 / AU No. 25
§ – 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. 13 September 1975. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
- Hung, Steffen. "australian-charts.com - Forum - 1975 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
- Currin, Brian. "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1965 - 1989 Acts (W)". Rock.co.za. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
- Hung, Steffen. "australian-charts.com - Forum - 1976 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved 30 June 2018.