Times have changed – but that don’t make ’em better
Her voice inspired the Stones in the 60s, and today you can hear her talent emulated by the likes of Adele and Amy. But Irma Thomas is no dusty relic: the New Orleans Queen remains a vibrant star in soul and blues, and offers the woman’s viewpoint to Garth Cartwright
Irma Thomas, after 52 years in the music industry, remains a remarkable artist. The Soul Queen Of New Orleans launched her career in 1960 with (You Can Have My Husband But Please) Don’t Mess With My Man on the Ron label and reached No 22 on the Billboard R&B charts. Dissatisfied over royalties, Thomas signed with Minit, ending up in the very capable hands of producer-arranger-songwriter Allen Toussaint.
A string of classic singles ensued – Ruler Of My Heart, I Done Got Over It and the magnificent It’s Raining – that all did well locally but, due to Minit’s poor distribution, failed to trouble the national charts. In 1963 Irma signed with Imperial and scored her biggest-ever hit with the self-penned I Wish Someone Would Care. Other classics she cut for Imperial include Break-A-Way, Time Is On My Side (The Rolling Stones copied her version note for note), Times Have Changed, Some Things You Never Get Used To, Hurt’s All Gone, Take A Look and It’s A Man’s Woman’s World. Switching to Chess, she cut three great singles at Muscle Shoals, scoring with the magnificent Good To Me in ’68.
Chess, oddly, didn’t know what to do with Irma and from then on she label-hopped, cutting great sides with Swamp Dogg and others but achieving almost no chart success. Having left New Orleans for Los Angeles, Irma …
by Garth Cartwright
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