(1595 - 1674)

John Wilson

English composer, lutenist and singer. He was active in London at court and in the theatres from 1614. Employed as successor to Robert Johnson through 1623 as composer for the King's Men, probably taking over as principal song writer in 1617 after a period of collaboration. 1

Wilson earned a place among the London waits in 1622, backed by Viscount Mandeville and the King's favorite Buckingham. He entered the King's Musick among the lutes in 1635; Oxford University granted him the D.Mus in 1644, and he was professor of music there from 1656 to 1661. He became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1662. Musician on lutes, voices, theorboes and virginals 1660-74.

Wilson as a composer of songs was quite robust; a 'hit or miss' composer given to quirkishness when not being downright popular. His playsongs display less versatility than those of Robert Johnson. He could write a good straightforward tune, indeed, he had the common touch, and some of his songs may be mistaken for genuine ballads. In more sophisticated vein he could handle the decalamatory style effectively, but he lacked Johnson's ability to explore deeper levels of character and feeling.

A Partial John Wilson Discography  |  IV M: England Through 1635  |   English Lute Composers before 1635   |  Guide to English Song in the Elizabethan and Stuart Ages  |  Catches and Glees


1. Whether Wilson may be identified with the 'Jacke Wilson' named in the 1623 folio edition of Much Ado About Nothing --that is, as Balthazar, the singer of 'Sigh no more ladies'--is uncertain, but more than probable. There is, after all, no need to assume that this reference referred to the first performance of the play in 1604 (when Wilson would have been too young for the part), merely to some performance prior to 1623, the period of his known association with the King's Men. Return to Text