Today the legendary Soul Queen of New Orleans, IRMA THOMAS turns 74! Currently Irma is widely celebrated as one of the greatest song stylists of the golden age of soul music. People can't get enough of her classics like "It's Raining," "Breakaway," "Time Is On My Side," "Hittin' On Nothing," "I Wish Someone Would Care," "Ruler of My Heart," etc etc etc. She's one of the most requested artists at my dance parties which is fantastic. However, I remember a time, just 20 years ago, when Irma Thomas was not well-known to people outside of the gulf coast region. The wonders of the Internet have made her a bigger star today than she was when she initially released her stellar records of the 1960s. It's one of those internet occurrences for which I'm extremely grateful. It really has increased visibility of artists who would have been long forgotten. As someone who's more or less dedicated my life to celebrating the artistry of these folks, it's been interesting to watch this phenomenon occur in front of my eyes.
Before the Internet, classic soul artists like Irma Thomas had another avenue for maintaining a career in the national (and international) spotlight - The Blues Circuit and blues radio. In the the late 1970s when traditional soul music was in the rear view mirror of the public eye, a handful of independent record labels began cropping up under the umbrella of the genre of "the blues". Artists who were popular in the 1960s as soul musicians where dusted off, repackaged, and marketed as BLUES artists (possibly because of the popularity of The Blues Brothers movie?) and a handful of musicians from the R&B and soul era where given opportunities to launch a second phase of their careers (maybe a 3rd phase for those who tried their hand at disco).
In the 1980s and 1990s we saw "blues" releases by soul/R&B artists like Barbara Lynn, Johnny Adams, Ruth Brown, Syl Johnson, Solomon Burke, Mighty Sam McClain, Ann Peebles, Miss Lavelle White, Johnny Copeland, Bobby Bland, The Persuasions, Otis Clay, Earl King, Charles Brown, Nappy Brown, Carol Fran, Linda Hopkins, and IRMA THOMAS. Irma became the queen of that scene and was able to keep building a niche fan base until the Internet, satellite radio, vinyl revival, and the soul dance party resurgence all worked together to make her a superstar amongst a new generation of hipsters.
All of this is great news, because if there is anyone who deserves to be appreciated for her artistry, it's Irma Thomas! She's been busting her butt in the music industry non-stop for at least 55 years!
Like Baby Washington, Irma Thomas is one of those artists who sings for the outsiders, the dejected, the rejected, the misunderstood, the under-appreciated. We've all been there (some of us more than others) and those are the times when we're at our most vulnerable. Perhaps that's why the voice of Irma Thomas is able to seep it's way deep into our damaged hearts, do a little spackling, and prepare it for permanent repair.
I've chosen one of Irma's uptempo positive tunes for my record of the day. It's from her Allen Toussaint-produced era. I have a soft spot for Allen, what can I say. This song was written by him and is representative of the New Orleans soul sound of the early 1960s.
I love you Irma. Thank you for 55 years of providing musical therapy for wounded hearts.
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!