...[a] richly detailed new biography of the singer. This book is a reminder of just how powerful a presence Pickett was ... As I read Fletcher’s painstakingly researched assessment of Pickett’s career and cultural influence, in which he recounts the making of so many of the singer’s most memorable songs, I couldn’t help but go online every few minutes to enjoy the songs themselves ... Fletcher faithfully escorts us through Pickett’s life, from his churchgoing youth in the segregated Deep South to his time making music in Detroit and Memphis as those centers of African-American life exploded with musical talent, to his legendary sessions in the unlikely recording hot spot of Muscle Shoals, Ala. He treats us to behind-the-scenes moments when magic happened in the recording studio ... As In the Midnight Hour shows, Pickett lost his way, but those full-throated shouts and screams still hit home.
Mr. Fletcher gives Pickett’s other big songs the same treatment, and readers of this biography would do well to listen along on YouTube as the writer takes them through each hit as it starts, swells and comes to an end that is somehow both startling and inevitable. Journalists who write about sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll often find it easier to focus on the sensational aspects of the industry than on the music itself, but Mr. Fletcher, the author of books on Keith Moon, the Smiths and R.E.M., gets it right.
Tony Fletcher almost nails the equation with In the Midnight Hour...Fletcher took multiple trips to Pickett’s old stomping grounds in Alabama and Detroit and conducted dozens of interviews with family members, his backing bandmates, and fellow musicians. Fletcher lays bare Pickett’s highs and most egregious lows without flinching, but there’s an almost scholarly detachment to moments like Pickett firing a gun at his own brother or meting out punishment on his son with a baseball bat ... Fletcher reserves his critical commentary for the music, and his descriptions of Pickett’s finest songs skirt the edge of purple prose. There’s no denying the importance of 'Midnight Hour' or 'Land of 1,000 Dances' in the history of music, but Fletcher’s microscopic attention to the recording sessions stall the book at times ... The author provides the most complete picture, warts and all, of this singular soul artist—and he doesn’t pull any punches. Fletcher also weaves in relevant ribbons of sociopolitical context, highlighting the cultural weight of what Pickett accomplished in his life. For whatever faults that lie within these pages, Fletcher springs back from them with clarity and a wealth of fascinating information.