June 15, 1988 – Jimmy Soul was born James Louis McCleese on August 24th 1942 in Weldon, North Carolina. At the age of 7 he became a preacher and performed gospel music as a teenager, becoming known locally as “the Wonder Boy.” He acquired his name, “Soul,” from his congregation.
Jimmy had two chart hits in the 60s with “Twistin’ Matilda” and the Billboard Hot 100 No.1 hit “If You Wanna Be Happy” which also charted in the UK. 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.
“If You Wanna Be Happy” sold over one million records, earning gold disc status. It had two spells in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #39 (1963) and #68 (1991) respectively.
After unsuccessfully trying to follow up the success of those songs with one more album, Soul gave up his career as a musician and joined the United States Army.
Later in life, Soul fell into a drug habit, and on January 9, 1986 was sentenced to 4 and a half to 9 years in prison as a second felony offender, convicted of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The sentence was affirmed upon appeals on October 26, 1987 and March 22, 1988.
Soul died of a presumably drug-related heart attack on June 15, 1988, aged 45.