Irma Thomas

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About Irma Thomas

The rich contralto of singer Irma Thomas—a.k.a. The Soul Queen of New Orleans—has resonated far beyond the borders of The Big Easy since her stunning run of ‘60s singles. Born Irma Lee in Ponchatoula, Louisiana in 1941, Thomas honed her vocal chops in a Baptist choir as a teenager. She released her upbeat, swaggering debut single, “Don’t Mess With My Man,” in 1959, but it was her mid-’60s output that earned her a reputation as an artist in league with contemporaries like Aretha Franklin and Etta James. The year 1964 was particularly significant, since that’s when she released the pensive, devotional “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand),” which included the gospel-influenced B-side “Time Is On My Side” (made into a hit by The Rolling Stones). It was followed by the resilient “Times Have Changed” and the swaying “He’s My Guy.” Though commercial success waned in the ensuing decades, Thomas earned her first Grammy for 2006’s After the Rain, and her influence left its mark on 21st-century artists as varied as Sharon Jones and Miley Cyrus.

Ponchatoula, LA, United States
February 18, 1941
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