Johnny Wakelin

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Johnny Wakelin
Born1939 (age 81–82)
Brighton, East Sussex, England
GenresRock and roll, reggae, R&B, pop
Years active1974–present
LabelsPye Records

Johnny Wakelin (born 1939 in Brighton, East Sussex, England) is an English recording artist best known for songs like "Black Superman" and "In Zaire", both celebrating boxer Muhammad Ali.


He had his first outings in clubs in his hometown but without big success.[1] 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"[1]

"Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)"[edit]

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[2] and Australia. By October of the same year, it had reached number one in Canada on the RPM Singles Chart.[3] 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.[1][4]

Later songs[edit]

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.[1]

A bigger success was "In Zaire", also about the 1974 fight, which reached the charts in many parts of Europe in 1976.

After few further releases ("Africa Man", "You Turn Me On", "Dr. Frankenstein's Disco Party") his success cooled down.[1] 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.[1]

He sang "Where Seagulls Fly", the Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. anthem released for their appearance in the 1983 FA Cup Final.[citation needed]



  • 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)


Year Single Peak chart positions
1972 "Hungarian Superman (Joe Bugner)" (as Johnny Wakelin & the Kinshasa Band)
1974 "Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)" (as Johnny Wakelin & the Kinshasa Band) 7 7 1 9 21 21
1975 "Tennessee Hero (Elvis)" 50
"Cream Puff"
1976 "Reggae – Soul – And Rock 'n' Roll"
"In Zaire" 4 25 2 2 2 10 2
"Africa Man" 8 24 10
1977 "Doctor Frankenstein's Disco Party"
1978 "Afro Afrique"
1979 "Lay Down and Rock Me"
"Grand Theft"
1983 "Where Seagulls Fly"
1986 "Bruno"
1988 "Get Off the Street" (Germany-only release)
1989 "One Million to One" (Germany-only release)
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Biography by Amy Hanson". Retrieved 2 February 2009.
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 589. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  3. ^ a b Library and Archives Canada: RPM Top Singles Chart, October 25, 1975
  4. ^ Billboard – Google Books. 13 September 1975. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  5. ^ "JOHNNY WAKELIN | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  6. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  7. ^ "Das österreichische Hitparaden- und Musik-Portal". Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  8. ^ " - ULTRATOP BELGIAN CHARTS". Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Suche - Offizielle Deutsche Charts". Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  10. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  11. ^ "Dutch Charts -". Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  12. ^ " - New Zealand charts portal". Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  13. ^ "The Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 28 June 2021.

External links[edit]