Okayplayer reports that Keith Wilder, longtime singer of the ’70s disco and funk band Heatwave, has died. No cause of death has been reported. Wilder was 68.
Wilder’s brother Johnnie Wilder, Jr. founded Heatwave in 1968. As an American serviceman, Johnnie had performed in Germany, and he moved to the UK upon being discharged from the Army. There, he formed Heatwave with a number of different musicians from around Europe and from Jamaica. He also sent for his brother Keith, who’d been singing in local bands in Dayton, Ohio.
Heatwave was initially a success in Europe, where their rubbery, slick single “Boogie Nights” was a huge hit in 1976. It would eventually go to #2 in the U.S., as well. Follow-up singles like the soulful ballad “Always And Forever,” and the disco jam “Groove Line” also did well on both sides of the Atlantic, and Heatwave’s first two albums, 1976’s Too Hot To Handle and 1978’s Central Heating, both went platinum.
Heatwave’s fortunes changed in 1979, when Johnnie Wilder, Jr. was paralyzed in a car accident. He died in 2006. (In a weird twist of fate, another founding Heatwave member, the Swiss bassist Mario Mantese, was also paralyzed — and blinded and rendered unable to speak — when his girlfriend stabbed him in 1979.) Heatwave continued for a few years before breaking up in the early ’80s. But Keith continued to sing with different versions of the group over the years. And Heatwave’s music found new generations when their songs were sampled for a number of rap classics, including Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half Steppin’,” De La Soul’s “Ego Trippin’ (Part Two),” and Timbaland and Magoo’s “Up Jumps Da Boogie.” They also, of course, gave Paul Thomas Anderson the title of his breakout movie. Below, watch a few videos of Heatwave performing.