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Irma Thomas (Ponchatoula, Louisiana, United States, February 18, 1941) is an American blues and soul singer, known as “The Queen of the Soul of New Orleans.” In 2007 she was awarded a Grammy Award in the category of “Best Contemporary Blues Album” by After the Rain.
Born as Irma Lee, as a child she stood out as a singer in the choir of the local Baptist church, arriving to audition with thirteen years for Specialty Records. At the age of 19, she had already married twice and was the mother of four children. He took the surname Thomas from his second husband. In the early ’60s she worked as a waitress in New Orleans and occasionally sang with Tommy Ridgley’s band, who helped her get her first record contract with the local label “Ron”. His first single “(You Can Have My Husband but) Do not Mess With My Man” was released in the spring of 1960, and reached number 22 on the Billboard R & B list.
After this first success, he started recording with Minit Records, working with composer and producer Allen Toussaint on tracks like “It’s Raining” and “Ruler of my Heart”. The record company Imperial Records acquired Minit in 1963 and Thomas launched a series of hit singles including “Breakaway”, his biggest hit, composed by Jackie DeShannon and Sharon Sheeley, “Wish Someone Would Care”, “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is “, written by Randy Newman and Jeannie Seely, and” Time Is on My Side “, previously recorded by Kai Winding and later by The Rolling Stones, although these first four singles with Imperial Records entered the Billboard charts, their releases Later in the decade he signed with Chess Records, where he obtained some success with songs like Otis Redding’s “Good To Me.” In the 70s he settled in California, where he continued to record with modest labels. the 80’s returned to Louisiana where he opened a club, “The Lion’s Den”.
In 1986, the song “It’s Raining” was included in the soundtrack of the independent film Down By Law by director Jim Jarmusch. After several years of retirement from the record world, Irma Thomas recorded again, this time with the company Rounder Records. In 1991 he received his first Grammy Award nomination for his album Live! Simply the Best recorded in San Francisco. In 1999, she was nominated again for the Grammy for the album Sing It !, recorded in collaboration with Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson.
In 1998 she was elected “Queen” of the Krewe du Vieux during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Irma Thomas performs annually at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and regularly performs at her club, “The Lion’s Den.” In August 2005, the club, which is located in the historic area of the city, was greatly affected by Hurricane Katrina, and the following year it released the album ‘ After the Rain’ ‘, Grammy awarded in the category of “Best contemporary blues album”.
In April 2007, in recognition of her contributions to New Orleans music, she was inducted into the “Louisiana Hall of Fame.” That same year he participated in the album homage to Fats Domino, Goin ‘Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino, performing along with Marcia Ball the song “I Just Can not Get New Orleans Off My Mind”.
In August 2009 he released a compilation album, with three new songs, titled The Soul Queen of New Orleans: 50th Anniversary Celebration, in commemoration for his fifty years of musical career.
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