Her career in a summary
Mildred “Millie” Jackson is an American R&B and soul singer and songwriter. She is also a comedienne of the unrestrictedly raunchy kind, and some of her songs have humorous and explicit monologues. Born in Georgia, Jackson once worked as a model and then moved on to professional singing in 1964. In the early 70s music scene she released her self-titled first LP under Spring Records, which featured songs in the Motown style. The album yielded singles such as “A Child of God (It’s Hard to Believe)” that reached #22 on the R&B hit singles list, but hit in the lower rung of the overall charts. Despite that, they remain as cherished obscure oldies music favorites. Her highest-charting single to date was “Hurts So Good” in September 1973. She now runs her own record company Weird Wreckuds (whose WeirdWreckuds.com also serves as her own official website) and continues to perform. Jackson is the mother of another R&B singer, Keisha Jackson.
Early life and career
Mildred “Millie” Jackson was born in Thomson, Georgia on July 15, 1944. After her mother died when she was younger, she and her father moved to Newark, New Jersey. Subsequently Jackson went to live in her aunt’s home in Brooklyn, New York. When she was younger, Jackson was influenced by listening to Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and the O’Jays.
According to some sources, her singing career started on a dare with a female performer that occurred at a Harlem nightclub. In turn, she rose from the audience and onto the stage, and won the dare by singing a cover of Ben E. King’s “Don’t Play It No More.”
Eventually she was hired as a professional singer at a Hoboken club. Jackson was then signed to MGM Records, where she stayed briefly. She moved to a lesser-known label Spring Records, based in New York. Jackson’s first single was “A Child of God (It’s Hard to Believe),” released in 1971. Its deceptive title led people to believe that it was a gospel song. However, due to its rather scandalous content the single was deleted, but it still managed to make dents on both pop and R&B charts (#102 and #22 respectively).
In 1972, Jackson released a follow-up single “Ask Me What You Want,” which became her first Top 10 R&B hit at #4. It also went to #27 on the pop chart.
Jackson continued to score a few decent hits such as “My Man Is a Sweet Man” (#42 pop, #7 R&B), “I Miss You Baby” (#95 pop, #22 R&B) and “Breakaway” (#110 pop, #16 R&B) while she was still performing at nightclubs.
In 1973, she achieved another Top 40 pop hit single “Hurts So Good” (at #24), which also reached #3 on the R&B singles chart. It was also featured as a soundtrack of the blaxploitation movie Cleopatra Jones; the single was also included in the album of the same name.
In 1974, Jackson released an LP Caught Up which introduced her trademark raunchy, racy rap style, to her audience’s delight. The album contained her version of Luther Ingram’s “If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be Right,” which peaked at #42 on both pop and R&B singles chart.
Jackson even took a stab at covering country singer Merle Haggard’s song “If We’re Not Back in Love by Monday” in 1977. Her version was successful enough, peaking at #43 pop and #5 R&B.
After Jackson’s long productive years with Spring Records which boasted several Top 100 singles, she moved to Jive label in the mid-1980s. Two of her Jive singles, “Hot! Wild! Unrestricted! Crazy Love” (1986) and “Love Is a Dangerous Game” (1987), both entered the R&B top 10.
Did you know that…
Millie Jackson has yet to win a Grammy. Although soul and R&B singer Millie Jackson has achieved immense success in her music career, the recognition of a Grammy continues to elude her. Jackson’s first album Caught Up was released in 1974 and over her forty-plus year career she has released 18 studio albums and garnered 3 Grammy nominations.
Prior to becoming a singer, Millie Jackson first sought occasional modeling gigs for magazines such as Jive and Sepia. Her unique look served her well as she found success in posing for different editorial spreads and layouts for these magazines, acting as a glimpse into the star she was about to become.
This is in stark contrast to the critiques she has received for her album covers, as these often put her on the “worst ever lists.” These often feature Jackson in a way that is highly sexual and suggestive to draw attention, such as E.S.P. where she peers seductively into a crystal ball, or Back to the S**t! where she can be seen sitting on a toilet with an implied use of the bathroom implied.
Following the closure of Spring Records in 1984, Millie Jackson found herself without a record label. However, two years later she signed with Jive Records and her association with the label produced fruitful results. Multiple albums were released and much-deserved recognition was earned through her two top ten R&B hits, “Hot! Wild! Unrestricted! Crazy Love” and “Love Is a Dangerous Game.”
Before landing on Jive, Millie Jackson teamed up with Elton John, record producer Greg Walsh, and songwriter Gary Osborne to create the hit track “Act of War”. The collaboration between these two remarkable artists led to the track being released as a single and reaching the top 40 on the UK charts. Unfortunately, US success for “Act of War” was not quite achieved, as it failed to chart across the Atlantic.
Despite facing a few difficult years in the late 1980s, Millie Jackson managed to bounce back with a vengeance. In 1991, she returned to the spotlight with Young Man, Older Woman, an uproarious play which was based on her album of the same name for Jive Records. She wrote and produced the show herself as well as starring in it.
After experiencing a long break from recording music, Millie Jackson made her return to the industry with Not for Church Folk. Released in 2001, it is indicative of the Urban contemporary sound she is known for. Notably sleek yet powerful, the album has become one of her most acclaimed projects, lauded for its impressive production and soulfulness. In 2014, she released her latest album, On the Soul Country Side.
On June 6, 2015, Millie Jackson was formally recognized for her achievements when she was inducted into the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Aside from her successful singing and recording career, Jackson also hosts her own radio show, a position which she has held for many years. She also established and runs her own imprint Weird Wreckuds.