Irma Thomas

Last updated

Irma Thomas
IrmaThomas2006.jpg
Irma Thomas at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2006
Background information
Birth nameIrma Lee
Also known asSoul Queen of New Orleans
Born (1941-02-18) February 18, 1941 (age 79)
Ponchatoula, Louisiana, United States
Genres R&B, soul, blues, gospel, pop
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active1959–present
Labels
Website www.IrmaThomas.com

Irma Thomas (born February 18, 1941) [1] [2] is an American singer from New Orleans. [3] She is known as the "Soul Queen of New Orleans". [2]

Contents

Thomas is a contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James, but never experienced their level of commercial success. [2] In 2007, she won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for After the Rain , her first Grammy in a career spanning over 50 years. [4]

Life and career

Born Irma Lee, in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, United States, [5] as a teenager she sang with a Baptist church choir. She auditioned for Specialty Records at the age of 13. By the time she was 19, she had been married twice and had four children. Keeping her second ex-husband's surname, she worked as a waitress in New Orleans, occasionally singing with bandleader Tommy Ridgley, who helped her land a record deal with the local Ron label. Her first single, "Don't Mess with My Man", [5] was released in late 1959, and reached number 22 on the US Billboard R&B chart. [2]

She then began recording on the Minit label, working with songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint on songs including "It's Raining" and "Ruler of My Heart", which was later reinterpreted by Otis Redding as "Pain in My Heart". [5] Imperial Records acquired Minit in 1963, and a string of successful releases followed. These included "Wish Someone Would Care", her biggest national hit; [5] its B-side "Breakaway", written by Jackie DeShannon and Sharon Sheely (later covered by Tracey Ullman, among others).

"Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)" was co-written by a young Randy Newman and future country star Jeannie Seely. This song has gained renewed appreciation as a result of its inclusion in numerous episodes of the science fiction anthology television series Black Mirror , stretching back to the first season. [6] On its B-side is "Time Is on My Side", [5] a song previously recorded by Kai Winding and later by the Rolling Stones. [2]

Her first four Imperial singles all charted on Billboard's pop chart, but her later releases were less successful. [2] Unlike her contemporaries Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick, she never managed to cross over into mainstream commercial success. She recorded for Chess Records in 1967–1968 with some success; her version of the Otis Redding song "Good to Me" reached the R&B chart. [5] [2] She then relocated to California, releasing records on various small labels, before returning to Louisiana, and in the early 1980s opened the Lion's Den Club. [2]

Down by Law , the 1986 independent film by Jim Jarmusch featured "It's Raining" in the soundtrack. [7] The film's actors Roberto Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi, whose characters fell in love in the movie, danced to the song.

After several years' break from recording, she was signed by Rounder Records, and in 1991 earned her first Grammy Award nomination for Live! Simply the Best, recorded in San Francisco. [8] She subsequently released a number of traditional gospel albums, together with more secular recordings. The album Sing It! (1998) was nominated for a Grammy in 1999. [2]

Thomas is still active as a performer, appearing annually at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. [9] She reigned as Queen of the Krewe du Vieux for the 1998 New Orleans Mardi Gras season. [10] She often headlined at her own club, but it went out of business due to Hurricane Katrina, which caused her to relocate to Gonzales, Louisiana, 60 miles (97 km) from New Orleans. [11] According to her website she is now back in her home in New Orleans.

Thomas appearing with James Taylor and others in 2008 Etown james and irma.jpg
Thomas appearing with James Taylor and others in 2008

In April 2007, Thomas was honored for her contributions to Louisiana music with induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. [12] Also in 2007, Thomas accepted an invitation to participate in Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino where, singing with Marcia Ball, she contributed "I Just Can't Get New Orleans Off My Mind". [13] The same year she won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for After the Rain . [4]

In August 2009, a compilation album with three new songs titled The Soul Queen of New Orleans: 50th Anniversary Celebration was released from Rounder Records to commemorate Thomas' 50th year as a recording artist. [14]

Thomas was the subject of the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival poster. She was chosen as the subject before the painting was chosen for the poster. Artist Douglas Bourgeois painted the singer in 2006. [15] In 2010, Thomas rode in the New Orleans parade "Grela". In April that year, Thomas performed at the Corner Hotel, Richmond, Victoria, Australia.

In 2011, Thomas performed twice at the Bluesfest music festival in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia. [16] On April 24, she performed on the Crossroads stage, coming on after Mavis Staples; then on April 25, she headlined the Crossroads stage, coming on after Jethro Tull and Osibisa.

In 2013, Thomas was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the "Soul Blues Female Artist" category, [17] which she duly won. [18] She won the same award in 2014. [19]

In 2018, Thomas received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance at the Americana Music Honors & Awards. [20]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Irma Thomas among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. [21]

Artists worked with

Influences

Discography

Singles

YearA-sideB-sideRecord label and catalog referenceUS chart statistics [24]
1959"Don't Mess with My Man""Set Me Free" Ron Records 328No. 22 – R&B
1959"A Good Man""I May Be Wrong"Ron Records 330
1961"Girl Needs Boy""Cry On" Minit Records 625
1961"It's Too Soon to Know""That's All I Ask"Minit Records 633
1962"Gone""I Done Got Over It"Minit Records 642
1962"It's Raining""I Did My Part"Minit Records 653
1962"Two Winters Long""Somebody Told Me"Minit Records 660
1963"Ruler of My Heart""Hittin' on Nothing"Minit Records 666
1963"For Goodness Sake""Whenever (Look Up)"Bandy Records 368
1963"Foolish Girl""When I Met You"Bumba Records 711
1964"Wish Someone Would Care""Breakaway" Imperial Records 66013No. 17 – Pop
1964"Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)""Time Is on My Side"Imperial Records 66041No. 52 – Pop
1964"Times Have Changed""Moments to Remember"Imperial Records 66069No. 98 – Pop
1964"He's My Guy""(I Want A) True, True Love"Imperial Records 66080No. 63 – Pop
1965"Some Things You Never Get Used To""You Don't Miss a Good Thing"Imperial Records 66095
1965"I'm Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry""Nobody Wants to Hear Nobody's Troubles"Imperial Records 66106
1965"It's Starting to Get to Me Now""Hurt's All Gone"Imperial Records 66120
1965"Take a Look""What Are You Trying to Do"Imperial Records 66137
1966"It's a Man's-Woman's World (part 1)""It's a Man's-Woman's World (part 2)"Imperial Records 66178
1967"Somewhere Crying""Cheater Man" Chess Records 2010
1967"A Woman Will Do Wrong""I Gave You Everything"Chess Records 2017
1968"Good to Me""We Got Something Good"Chess Records 2036No. 42 – R&B
1970"Save a Little Bit For Me""That's How I Feel About You" Canyon Records 21
1971"I'd Do It All Over You""We Won't Be in Your Way Anymore"Canyon Records 31
1972"Full Time Woman""She's Taking My Part" Cotillion Records 41444
1973"She'll Never Be Your Wife""You're the Dog"Fungus Records 15119
1973"In Between Tears (part 1)""In Between Tears (part 2)"Fungus Records 15141
1974"Coming from Behind (part 1)""Coming from Behind (part 2)"Fungus Records 15353
1977"Don't Blame Him""Breakaway" Maison de Soul 1012
1978"Hip Shakin' Mama""Hittin' on Nothin'"Maison de Soul 1058
1979"Safe With Me""Zero Willpower"RCS Records 1006
1980"Take What You Find""I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)"RCS Records 1008
1980"A Woman Left Lonely""Dance Me Down Easy"RCS Records 1010
1981"Looking Back""Don't Stop"RCS Records 1013
1988"Mardi Gras Manbo""I Believe Saints Go All the Way"Sound of New Orleans 10311

[25]

Albums

YearTitleRecord labelNotes
1964Wish Someone Would Care Imperial
1966Take a LookImperial
1973In Between TearsFungus
1977Irma Thomas Live – New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Island
1978Soul Queen of New Orleans Maison de Soul
1979Safe with MeRCS
1981In Between Tears Charly Reissue of Fungus LP
1981Hip Shakin' MamaCharlyReissue of Island LP
1984Down at Muscle Shoals Chess/P-Vine from 1967/68 for Chess
1986The New Rules Rounder
1988The Way I FeelRounder
1991Live: Simply the BestRounder
1992True BelieverRounder
1993Walk Around Heaven: New Orleans Gospel SoulRounder
1993Turn My World Around Shanachie
1997The Story of My LifeRounder
1998Sing It!Rounderwith Marcia Ball & Tracy Nelson
2000My Heart's in Memphis: The Songs of Dan PennRounder
2006 After the Rain Rounder
2008Simply GrandRounder /Decca
2014Full Time Woman – The Lost Cotillion AlbumRGM/Rhino from 1971/72 for Atlantic/Cotillion

[26]

Compilation albums

YearTitleRecord labelNotes
1979Irma Thomas SingsBandyBandy/Minit recordings
1983Time Is on My Side Kent Minit/Imperial recordings
1986Break-A-Way: The Best of Irma ThomasLegendary Masters Series (EMI-USA)
1987BreakaWay Stateside Minit/Imperial recordings
1990Something Good: The Muscle Shoals Sessions MCA/Chess Chess recordings
1991Safe with Me/Irma Thomas LivePaula
1992Time Is on My Side: The Best of Irma Thomas Volume 1EMI-USAMinit/Imperial
1996Ruler of HeartsCharlyMinit/Bandy/Island
1996Sweet Soul Queen of New Orleans: The Irma Thomas Collection Razor & Tie Minit/Imperial
1996Time Is on My SideKentExpanded version of 1983 LP
2001If You Want It, Come and Get ItRounder
2005Straight from the SoulStatesideMinit/Imperial
2006A Woman's ViewpointAceFungus/Canyon/RCS
2006Wish Someone Would Care/Take a Look Collectables Imperial
2009The Soul Queen of New Orleans: 50th Anniversary CelebrationRounderThree previously unreleased, out of fifteen tracks

[26]

Guest appearances

YearTitleArtistLabelNotes
1993 Blues Summit B.B. King MCA Duet on "We're Gonna Make It" [27]
2005I Believe to My SoulVarious artists Rhino Singing "Loving Arms" [28]
2005 Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast Various artists Elektra/Nonesuch Singing "Back Water Blues" [29]
2006Sing Me Back HomeThe New Orleans Social Club Burgundy/Honey DarlingDuet with Marcia Ball on "Look Up" [30]
2007 Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino Various artists Vanguard Duet with Marcia Ball on "I Can't Get New Orleans Off My Mind" [13]
2010Ya-Ka-MayGalactica Anti- Vocals on "Heart of Steel" [31]
2011 Let Them Talk Hugh Laurie Warner Bros. Vocals on "John Henry" and "Baby, Please Make a Change" [32]

Filmography

YearTitleNotes
1978 Always for Pleasure
2006 New Orleans Music in Exile
2010 Treme TV series

Related Research Articles

Aretha Franklin American singer, songwriter, and pianist

Aretha Louise Franklin was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist. Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father C. L. Franklin was minister. At the age of 18, she embarked on a secular-music career as a recording artist for Columbia Records. While Franklin's career did not immediately flourish, she found acclaim and commercial success after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966. Hit songs such as "Respect", "Chain of Fools", "Think", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", "I Never Loved a Man ", and "I Say a Little Prayer", propelled her past her musical peers. By the end of the 1960s, Aretha Franklin had come to be known as "The Queen of Soul".

Etta James American singer

Etta James was an American singer who performed in various genres, including blues, R&B, soul, rock and roll, jazz and gospel. Starting her career in 1954, she gained fame with hits such as "The Wallflower", "At Last", "Tell Mama", "Something's Got a Hold on Me", and "I'd Rather Go Blind". She faced a number of personal problems, including heroin addiction, severe physical abuse, and incarceration, before making a musical comeback in the late 1980s with the album Seven Year Itch.

Faith Hill American singer and record producer

Audrey Faith McGraw, known professionally as Faith Hill, is an American singer and record producer. She is one of the most successful country music artists of all time, having sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. Hill is married to American singer Tim McGraw, with whom she has recorded several duets.

Dr. John American singer-songwriter, pianist and guitarist

Malcolm John Rebennack Jr., better known by his stage name Dr. John, was an American singer and songwriter. His music combined blues, pop, jazz, boogie-woogie, and rock and roll.

Clifton Chenier American Zydeco accordion player and singer

Clifton Chenier, a Louisiana French-speaking native of Opelousas, Louisiana, was an eminent performer and recording artist of Zydeco, which arose from Cajun and Creole music, with R&B, jazz, and blues influences. He played the accordion and won a Grammy Award in 1983. He was a recipient of a 1984 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. He was inducted posthumously into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2014, he was a recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Marcia Ball American blues singer and pianist

Marcia Ball is an American blues singer and pianist raised in Vinton, Louisiana.

Maison de Soul is a Louisiana-based Zydeco and blues record label. It was founded in 1974 in Ville Platte, Louisiana by Floyd Soileau and remains under his ownership. It is one of four record labels under Soileau's Flat Town Music Company umbrella, and combined the Flat Town labels make up "the largest body of Cajun, zydeco, and swamp music in the world". Living Blues magazine has called Maison de Soul "the country's foremost zydeco label".

Susan Tedeschi American blues musician

Susan Tedeschi is an American singer and guitarist. A multiple Grammy Award nominee, she is a member of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, a conglomeration of her band, her husband Derek Trucks's the Derek Trucks Band, and other musicians.

Tracy Nelson (singer) American singer

Tracy Nelson is an American singer.

Bettye LaVette American soul singer-songwriter

Bettye LaVette is an American soul singer-songwriter who made her first record at sixteen, but achieved only intermittent fame until 2005, with her album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise. Her eclectic musical style combines elements of soul, blues, rock and roll, funk, gospel, and country music.

Scott Billington is an American record producer, songwriter, record company executive and blues musician.

Ledisi American R&B and jazz recording artist, songwriter, and actress

Ledisi Anibade Young, better known simply as Ledisi, is an American R&B and jazz recording artist, songwriter, and actress. Her first name means "to bring forth" or "to come here" in Yoruba. In 1995, Ledisi formed the group Anibade. After unsuccessfully trying to get the group signed to a major label, she formed LeSun Records with Sundra Manning. Anibade and Ledisi released an album entitled "Soulsinger" featuring the song Take Time, which gained substantial airplay from San Francisco area radio stations. A twelve-time Grammy Award nominee, Ledisi has released eight studio albums between 2000 and 2017.

Ruthie Foster American blues musician, singer, and songwriter

Ruthie Cecelia Foster is an American singer-songwriter of blues and folk music. She mixes a wide palette of American song forms, from gospel and blues to jazz, folk and soul. She has often been compared to Bonnie Raitt and Aretha Franklin.

Dorothy LaBostrie, later Dorothy LaBostrie Black, was an American songwriter, best known for co-writing Little Richard's 1955 hit "Tutti Frutti".

Guitar Slim Jr. is an American New Orleans blues guitarist and singer. Over his lengthy playing career, he has worked with numerous other blues musicians. His debut album, Story of My Life (1988), was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Carol Fran American blues singer, pianist and songwriter

Carol Fran is an American soul blues singer, pianist and songwriter. Fran is best known for her string of single releases in the 1950s and 1960s, and her later musical association with her husband, Clarence Hollimon. She has released five solo albums since 1992, her final collaboration with Hollimon being on JSP Records.

<i>After the Rain</i> (Irma Thomas album) 2006 studio album by Irma Thomas

After the Rain is the eighteenth studio album by Irma Thomas. After the Rain won the Best Contemporary Blues Album, at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, which was the first time Thomas won a Grammy Award in her career.

Reneé Austin is an American soul, R&B, gospel, singer, songwriter, actor and speaker. She is a six-time Minnesota Music Award Winner including 'Female Vocalist of the Year'. Austin has a wide vocal range, and has opened for Los Lobos, Tower of Power, Delbert McClinton, Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Keb Mo and more. She released three albums between 1997 and 2005, and supplied backing vocals on Tommy Castro's 2005 album, Soul Shaker. Austin was also part of a group of women who performed in Morgan Freeman's PBS Blues Divas, as well as singing for a live WWE season premier, whose television audience was six million. Her singing voice has been compared by critics to those of Mavis Staples, Tina Turner, Gladys Knight, Anita Baker, Regina Belle, and also as a female version of Michael McDonald.

<i>Trilogy</i> (Ana Popović album) 2016 studio album by Ana Popović

Trilogy is the seventh solo studio album by the United States-based blues guitarist and singer from Serbia, Ana Popović. It was released on May 20, 2016.

"It's Raining" is a soul/R&B ballad, credited as written by Naomi Neville. It was first recorded in November 1961 by Irma Thomas, and produced by Allen Toussaint. The song has emotional ties to Louisiana, having been written and sung by people born in that State, being released on a New Orleans–based record label and enduring in the Deep South as a regional classic.

References

  1. Jeff Hannusch (1985). I Hear You Knockin : The Sound of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues . Swallow Publications. ISBN   978-0961424503. I was born in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, February 18, 1941
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Ankeny, Jason. "Biography: Irma Thomas". AllMusic . Retrieved May 16, 2010.
  3. Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN   1-904041-96-5.
  4. 1 2 "Irma Thomas". Grammy.com. May 14, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1175. ISBN   1-85227-745-9.
  6. "Here's Why You Hear That One Song Over and Over in 'Black Mirror'". Thewrap.com. February 11, 2018. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  7. "Down by Law (1986) : Soundtracks". IMDb. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  8. "Irma Thomas - Soul Express 4/1994". Soulexpress.net. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  9. "The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival : Line-up : Irma Thomas". Lineup.nojazzfest.com. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  10. Lind, Angus (February 1, 1998). "The Passing Parade". Times-Picayune. New Orleans, LA. p. E1.
  11. Simon, Scott (July 1, 2006). "A Visit with the Soul Queen of New Orleans". Weekend Edition Saturday (NPR).
  12. Shepherd, Mike. "Louisiana Music Hall of Fame - IRMA THOMAS - 2007". Louisianamusichalloffame.org. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  13. 1 2 "Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino - Various Artists - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  14. "The Soul Queen of New Orleans: 50th Anniversary - Irma Thomas - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  15. "Art critic calls 2008 Jazzfest poster 'the best ever'". Blog.nola.com. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  16. "Byron Bay Bluesfest 2011". Consequenceofsound.net. December 1, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  17. "Blues Music Awards Nominees - 2013 - 34th Blues Music Awards". Blues.org. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  18. "Blues Music Awards - Past Years". Blues.org. Archived from the original on October 26, 2010. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  19. "2014 Blues Music Awards Nominees and Winners". Blues.about.com. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  20. "AMA Awards". Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  21. Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  22. Hannusch, John (2001). The Soul of New Orleans, a Legacy of Rhythm and Blues. Swallow Publications. ISBN   978-0961424589.
  23. Sinclair, John. "Irma Thomas: An Audience with the Soul Queen of New Orleans". Bluesaccess.com. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  24. "Irma Thomas - Chart history - Billboard". Billboard.com. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  25. "Irma Thomas: A discography of US singles". Helsinki.fi. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  26. 1 2 "Irma Thomas - Album Discography - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  27. "Blues Summit - B.B. King - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  28. "I Believe to My Soul - Various Artists - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  29. "Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast - Various Artists - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  30. "Sing Me Back Home - The New Orleans Social Club - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  31. "Ya-Ka-May - Galactic - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  32. "Let Them Talk - Hugh Laurie - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2017.