Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Little Willie John

  • Fever: The Best of Little Willie John [Rhino, 1995] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Fever: The Best of Little Willie John [Rhino, 1995]
As with the otherwise radically dissimilar Otis Redding, this depthless bantamweight's unique soul power was old beyond its years--a gift of his gene pool more than his life experience. He imbued longing, anxiety, arrogance, pain, lust, and generic escapism with a self-possession that sounds spiritual even if it's entirely somatic. When he cut the shrewd "All Around the World," the bereft "Need Your Love So Bad," and the consoled "Home at Last," he was 17 years old. When he cut a "Fever" so fervid Peggy Lee couldn't top it with a strip-tease, he was 18. When he last charted, he was 23. When he died in the penitentiary, guilty of manslaughter but too good for whatever befell him inside, he was 30. A