Passings: Keith Wilder, Singer For Heatwave

Wilder (center)
by VVN Music

Keith Wilder, one of two singers, with his brother Johnnie, in the band Heatwave has died after suffering from a number of health problems at the age of 65.

Heatwave was started by Johnnie Wilder while stationed in West Germany and, after leaving the service, moved to England where he placed an advertisement looking for like-minded musicians. Rod Temperton, who later would write such songs as "Thriller", "Rock With You" and "Give Me the Night", answered and they formed the group Chicago's Heatwave, playing in London clubs.

At the same time, Keith was playing in a local band in Dayton, OH when his brother called and convinced him to come to London to sing with their band.  Accepting his offer, they continued to hone their sound until, in 1976, they were signed to GTO Records.

After to unsuccessful singles, the group now known as Heatwave released "Boogie Nights" which went to number 2 in the U.S. (5 on the R&B Singles) and the U.K. and made the group stars.  The followed in 1977 with "Always and Forever" (#18 Pop / #2 R&B / #9 U.K.) and, the next year, with "The Groove Line" (1978 / #7 Pop / #3 R&B / #12 U.K.). 

While they did have two more top twelve hits in the U.K., they would not make the upper reaches of the U.S. chart again. The band also faced a number of tragedies including the stabbing bassist Mario Mantese and a car accident that left Johnnie Widler paralyzed.

The band went their separate ways in early 1983 but reformed in 1988 with Keith as the only remaining original member. The recorded one album before, once again, breaking up and Keith went on to record a gospel album with his brother.

Keith again reformed Heatwave in the mid-90's for the release of a live album and continued to tour through the ensuing years except for a period in 2015 when he suffered a stroke.

He is survived by his mother, his wife, Linda, three brothers and four children.


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