Always and Forever . . . Smiling
May 21, 2006
Can we please have a moment of silence . . .
For the lead singer of Heatwave, Johnnie Wilder Jr., whose unforgettable falsetto helped made "Always and Forever" one of the greatest love ballads of all time.
The soul crooner died in his sleep on May 13 in his home in Clayton, Ohio, according to his daughter, Carla Hawkins. He was 56. Johnnie founded Heatwave with his brother, Keith Wilder, while the two were in the Army stationed in Germany. The group's debut 1976 album, Too Hot to Handle, featured such classic hits as "Boogie Nights" and the quiet storm mainstay "Always and Forever," which was composed by the band's primary songwriter, Rod Temperton. (thank you Jimi Izrael)
In 1979, Johnnie was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He still continued to record music and used his falsetto voice to forged a gospel solo career. Johnnie also mentored local gospel acts in Dayton, Ohio. "[Johnnie] did a lot with his life," said Keith. "He touched a lot of people's hearts."
Johnnie was buried on May 19 after his funeral services in Dayton, Ohio. Over 600 people attended the wake to bid farewell to the late singer. At the service, Johnnie was mostly remembered for his work in gospel music than his days riding the groove line with Heatwave. "He found Jesus, and he didn't need to dance anymore," said Johnnie's younger brother, Gerald Wilder Sr. "He was locked into a body that wouldn't move, but he knew Christ. That's why people who knew Johnnie know that he was always smiling."
R.I.P. Johnnie, we will miss you. Much love . . . always and forever.
Heatwave -- "Mind Blowing Decisions"
Heatwave -- "Boogie Nights"