The late Little Willie John (1937-68) was one of the pivotal figures in blues, R&B/soul and rock & roll - his 50s recordings are an vital part of the linkage to/transition between the raw blues shouters (Big Joe Turner, Wynonnie Harris) and the suave soul singers (James Brown, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye) [not to mention Van Morrison and B.B. King], and like Elvis Presley and Nat "King" Cole, he worked on an amalgam of down-home and uptown sounds and Tin Pan Alley pop that helped alter the face of popular music. John had a warm, supple voice with a high timbre, limber, jazz-tinged phrasing (I hear some Jimmy Rushing in him) and a powerful emotional range, and while it’s highly unlikely he sought to create "art," he was one of THE great vocal artists of the 1950s.
Need more proof? One of the late Peggy Lee’s biggest hits was an almost note-for-note version of John’s recording of "Fever," or listen to the simultaneously date AND timeless élan with which he sings the R&B standard "Talk To Me." Or "Let Them Talk." I feel safe in stating there’s probably no quality soul/R&B singer, soul-influenced singer or post-50s blues singer that hasn’t been touched directly or indirectly by Little Willie John. For lovers of this kind of singing, The Very Best of Little Willie John (with its fine n' natural sound, generous 25 tracks AND previously unreleased stereo versions, no less!) is an ESSENTIAL purchase.