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Keith Wilder, singer for 1970s Disco/Funk hit-makers Heatwave

Getty Images / Wireimage / Photo by Chris McKay

Keith Wilder, singer for 1970s Disco/Funk hit-makers Heatwave

Keith Wilder, singer for 1970s Disco/Funk Hit-Makers Heatwave, died Oct. 29, his daughter Lisa Wilder announced in an Instagram post Monday.

“A legend passed away yesterday, a man who sang songs that tapped feet and gave a lot of joy; he was a part of a history of GREAT and timeless music. People called him mentor and friend, brother and all the many wonderful titles he held...but I called him Dad.” 

Lisa Wilder and Keith’s other daughter Tami are in the band Twisted Royalty. 

Keith was one of the co-founders of Heatwave along with his brother Johnnie Wilder, Jr. Johnnie was in the U.S. Army in the 1970s and remained in Germany after his discharge. He started singing in clubs and relocated to England. While in England, he paired up with songwriter/keyboardist Rod Temperton. Johnnie brought his brother Keith to London from their native Dayton, Ohio to join the band along with other musicians and they called themselves Chicago’s Heatwave. 


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Changing their name to Heatwave, the band inked a record deal with GTO Records in England. Epic Records would distribute their albums in the states. Johnnie and Keith were co-lead singers. Johnnie’s smooth falsetto voice blended perfectly with Keith’s rougher vocal tone. Questlove, drummer with The Roots, paid tribute to Keith and Heatwave in an Instagram post. 

“Keith sang on ALOT of my fav Heatwave joints (Boogie Nights, Groove Line, One Night Tan, & the dramatic epic Therm Warfare) he was the gruff voiced counterpart to his younger brother’s velvet smoothness. Edwards to Kendricks, Jermaine to Michael, Gorrie to Stuart, White to Bailey, Levert to Williams practically EVERY monster soul group gave you more than one vocalist to focus on, let’s keep his light alive & celebrate his art. rip Keith Wilder!” 

The band’s debut album “Too Hot to Handle” was released in the spring of 1977. The band quickly became an international success with the dance floor classic “Boogie Nights.” The song made it to Number 2 in England and the United States. 

They followed up “Boogie Nights” with a ballad titled “Always and Forever.” Featuring Johnnie’s falsetto, the song reached the Billboard top 20 and is today one of the most popular wedding songs. 

Their second album “Central Heating” gave the band another dance floor hit in 1978 with the disco/funk single “The Groove Line.” Keith sings lead vocals on the track that features an irresistible groove hook.  Heatwave perfected a tight dance/funk sound that paired the terrific vocals of the Wilder brothers with the songwriting talent of Rod Temperton. 

Heatwave would go through big changes during the late 1970s. They still found some success on subsequent releases but nothing matched the first two albums. After “Central Heating,” Rod Temperton left the band though he would still write most of their songs. Temperton went on to write many hits including Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” 

Tragedy struck the band in 1979 when Johnnie Wilder, Jr. was paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident in Dayton, Ohio. 

A determined Johnnie would sing vocals in the studio for the 1980 album “Candles.” The album featured the band’s last hit song with “Gangsters of the Groove” making it to number 21 in the United States. 

Though the band broke up in the early 1980s, Keith Wilder would keep performing as Heatwave with various musicians. Heatwave’s music would be sampled by many rap artists including De La Soul and Big Daddy Kane.

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Enjoy these classic Heatwave songs.