Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Happy Birthday, To The Soul Queen Of New Orleans
I don't recall the first time I knew it was Irma Thomas' voice I was hearing. Growing up, New Orleans was a place on the map and people like Fats Domino and Miss Irma were just voices on the radio like Sly & The Family Stone and Sonny & Cher. One afternoon, I was visiting my roommate at the video store he had been managing, and I heard this song playing that, for whatever reason at that moment, sounded like pure heaven. My friend's co-worker Kyle showed me a cassette. "It's Irma Thomas." The song was "Take A Look." That was 1987 and that's when I became a fan for life. That song was played at the right place, at the right time.
I bought this record that Kyle had on cassette. It was a U.K. import on the Kent label, "Time Is On My Side" and I played it everyday, staring at the cover, assuming Irma Thomas was long gone. (There was no Google in 1987.)
The first time I set foot in New Orleans, some twenty-plus years ago, I was overwhelmed by everything: sites, smells, heat, food, booze and music, of course. But the one thing I could not comprehend was that this dream singer named Irma Thomas was not only alive, but owned a club called The Lion's Den and she performed there whenever the hell she pleased.
Since 1999, I've seen Irma Thomas perform live at least a dozen times, mostly in New Orleans, occasionally singing gospel, which is truly an experience not of this Earth, and even once or twice in New York City. I even recall declaring after one particularly moving set, how I felt like Irma Thomas was *the* best female R&B singer. Even better than Aretha! I blame New Orleans for that bit of folly. That city can make you say and do anything. I promise I won't say it again, even if on certain days, I really do think it.
(I took this photo below in the Gospel Tent at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2009, I believe.)
Today is Miss Irma Thomas' birthday. She is 79 years old and she will be performing again at this years Jazz Fest. And I will see her. And she will no doubt render me speechless, once again.
Listen to some Irma Thomas today.
Posted by Sal Nunziato at 6:04 AM