Wilson was performing his hit single, “Lonely Teardrops” at a Dick Clark show at the Latin Casino in New Jersey, in September of 1975 when he suffered a massive heart attack.
A battle over his finances broke out between Wilson’s wife, Harlean and lawyers Edward Adourian and Wayne Bryant, who up until 1978, had guardianship over Wilson and controlled his finances.
In May of 1978, Camden, New Jersey County Court Judge Mary Ann Tolbert granted Mrs. Wilson guardianship of Jackie, while her lawyer John Mulkerin and Adourian controlled his estate.
The lawyers attempted to get a financial statement from Brunswick Records, but the label reportedly refused to hand any over.
Benefit concerts were organized to raise funds for Wilson, including one in October headlined by The Spinners in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
In 1983 Epic released a double album titled the Jackie Wilson story. Proceeds from the album went to Wilson’s medical bills which were a round $1000 a month in that year.“Naturally I would be glad that a lot of it is over,” Mrs. Wilson told Jet Magazine in 1978. “However, I do not think a lot of the problems are over with…Everyone has capitalized off the man’s name. I and Jackie’s family are just a little of people who did not really know Jackie Wilson continually talk of how well they knew him when they didn’t know him at all. If he had only been placed in the hands of his family from the start, none of this would ever have happened.”
According to Mulkerin, Wilson suffered from “brain stem,” a condition in which the eyes, ears and vocal chords function, but the portion of the brain that controls those functions, is dead.Wilson was incredibly taken off life support in 1976 but remained in a vegetative state until his death from pneumonia, at the Memorial Hospital of Burlington County in Mount Holly, New Jersey.
Services for Wilson were held at Russell Street Baptist Church in Detroit.
Wilson’s alleged connections to the underworld connections, or worldwide fame, followed him all the way up until his death.
He was monitored 24-hours-a-day via closed circuit television, due to an alleged “kidnap attempt.”