Born on August 24, 1942 in Weldon, NC, Jimmy Soul became a preacher at the age of seven and performed gospel as a teenager, becoming known locally as "the Wonder Boy." His talent was noticed by Frank Guida, engineer of the legendary Norfolk sound, and was recruited to record some of the calypso-based songs that Guida had hand-picked for one of his other hit artists, Gary U.S. Bonds. Soul's only two charting hits were both Bonds' cast-offs, 1962's "Twistin' Matilda" and 1963's number one hit "If You Wanna Be Happy." That song, with its upbeat, vibrant Caribbean sound, was a huge success and prompted Soul to try to re-create the success of his hit with some fairly derivative West Indian songs such as "Treat 'Em Tough" and "A Woman Is Smarter in Every Kinda Way," but he failed to chart again and later joined the Army, giving up his career in music. He died of a heart attack on June 25, 1988, at the age of 45.
Share this page