horizontal bar


Irma Thomas

horizontal bar

Irma Thomas

Biography Discography Videos


Official WebsiteOfficial Website

horizontal bar

The unrivaled Soul Queen of New Orleans, a title officially bestowed by local officials, no less, Irma Thomas ranks among Crescent City R&B's greatest and most enduring musical ambassadors, never enjoying the coast-to-coast commercial success of contemporaries like Aretha Franklin and Etta James but nevertheless breathing the same rarified air in the minds of many soul music aficionados. Born Irma Lee in Ponchatoula, LA, on February 18, 1941, as a teen she sang with a Baptist church choir, even auditioning for Specialty Records as a 13-year-old. A year later, she gave birth to her first child, marrying the baby's father and subsequently giving birth to another child before the union dissolved. At 17 she wed again, this time to one Andrew Thomas, having two more babies before she again divorced, all before the age of 20. Keeping her second ex-husband's surname, Thomas went to work as a waitress at New Orleans' Pimlico Club, occasionally sitting in with bandleader Tommy Ridgley. When the club's owner dismissed her for spending more time singing than waiting tables, Ridgley agreed to help her land a record deal, setting up auditions with the local Minit and Ronn labels. The latter issued her saucy debut single, "You Can Have My Husband (But Don't Mess with My Man)," in the spring of 1960, and the record quickly reached the number 22 spot on the Billboard R&B chart. However, Thomas accused Ronn of withholding royalties and after one more effort for the label, "A Good Man," she briefly landed with the Bandy label, releasing 1961's "Look Up" before relocating to Minit.

Thomas' first Minit release, "Girl Needs Boy," inaugurated a collaboration with songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint that would continue throughout her tenure with the label; although none of her six Minit singles were significant hits, each was brilliant, in particular 1962's "It's Raining" (memorably revived by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch for his cult classic Down by Law) and the following year's "Ruler of My Heart," reworked by Otis Redding as "Pain in My Heart." Imperial Records acquired Minit in 1963, and Thomas' contract was included in the deal. Her first single for the label, the starkly intimate "Wish Someone Would Care," capitalized on Imperial's deep pockets to vault into the Billboard pop Top 20, while its Jackie DeShannon/Sharon Sheeley-penned B-side, "Break-a-Way," proved a massive hit on New Orleans radio, later accumulating cover versions by singers from Beryl Marsden to Tracey Ullman. The follow-up, "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)," was even better, a magnificent ballad featuring one of Thomas' most finely wrought vocals, but was not a hit. Likewise, its Jerry Ragovoy-penned B-side, "Time Is on My Side," had its fans, not the least of them the Rolling Stones, who scored a massive hit with a virtual note-for-note cover version. Thomas closed out 1964 with a pair of minor chart entries, "Times Have Changed" and "He's My Guy," both of them written by Van McCoy; for subsequent efforts including "I'm Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry" and "The Hurt's All Gone," she even traveled to New York City to record with hitmaker Ragovoy, but despite the pedigrees of those involved, her commercial momentum dissipated, and following the chart failure of 1966's James Brown-produced "It's a Man's-Woman's World," Imperial terminated her contract.

Thomas next signed with Chess Records, traveling to Rick Hall's legendary Muscle Shoals studio Fame to cut 1967's "Cheater Man." Neither that record nor its follow-up, "A Woman Will Do Wrong Charted," had much success, but her third Chess single, a reading of Redding's "Good to Me," was a minor R&B chart entry in 1968. It was not enough to extend Thomas' relationship with Chess, however, and she spent the next several years outside the studio. In the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Camille, she relocated her family to Oakland, CA, in 1969, later settling in Los Angeles. During this time Thomas supported her children by working at retailer Montgomery Ward, resurfacing on record with 1971's Cotillion label release "Full Time Woman." Later that year, she also issued "Save a Little Bit" on the tiny Canyon label, followed in 1972 by "I'd Do It All for You." Thomas returned in 1973 with "These Four Walls" on Roker, followed by three singles on the horribly named Fungus label: "You're the Dog (I Do the Barking Myself)," "In Between Tears," and "Coming from Behind." She relocated back to New Orleans in 1976, a year later issuing "Hittin' on Nothin'" and a re-recorded "Breakaway" on Maison de Soul; in 1980, Thomas surfaced on the RCS label with Safe with Me, an ill-conceived LP that sought to update her sound to approximate disco-era R&B. It was the last record she would make for six years.

In the interim, Thomas accelerated her live schedule. With husband/manager Emile Jackson, she opened the Lion's Den, a New Orleans club where she regularly headlined, and she also toured Europe, where her records still merited regular airplay. In 1985, she was approached by Rounder Records producer Scott Billington to make a comeback record. The New Rules appeared the following year, earning solid reviews and selling respectably. The Way I Feel hit stores in 1988, and with 1991's Live! Simply the Best, Thomas earned her first-ever Grammy nomination. The following year she issued True Believer, and in 1993 released her first gospel effort, Walk Around Heaven. She waited until 1997 to release her next secular record, The Story of My Life, blaming the delay in interviews on her difficulty in finding material appropriate to her age and sensibility. Thomas shifted gears radically for 1998's Sing It!, which paired her with devout fans Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson; two years later saw the release of My Heart's in Memphis: The Songs of Dan Penn, with Thomas tackling both Penn classics ("I'm Your Puppet," "Woman Left Lonely") and original compositions. After the Rain, released in 2006, was nominated for a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy. Simply Grand was issued on Rounder Records in 2008, and featured Thomas in an acoustic setting accompanied by a host of piano players, including Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, Randy Newman, and others.

-- Jason Ankeny of All Music Guide.

Irma Thomas live 8-23-08, "Time Is On My Side"

horizontal bar

1964Wish Someone Would Care
1968Take A Look
1976New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Live)
1978Soul Queen Of New Orleans
1981Safe With Me (Live)
1986The New Rules
1988The Way I Feel
1990Something Good: Muscle Shoals
1991Live! Simply The Best
1992True Believer
1993Walk Around Heaven: New Orleans Gospel Soul
1993Turn My World Around
1994Live! At The Kingfish
1997The Story Of My Life
2000My Heart�s In Memphis: The Songs Of Dan Penn
2006After The Rain
2008Simply Grand


horizontal bar

1964 Wish Someone Would Care

01. Wish Someone Would Care
02. I Need Your Love So Bad
03. Without Love(there is nothing)
04. Please Send Me Someone To Love
05. Another Woman's Man
06. Sufferin' With The Blues
07. Time Is On My Side
08. While The City Sleeps
09. Straight From The Heart
10. I've Been There
11. I Need You So
12. Break-A-Way

1968 Take A Look

01. Take A Look
02. Teasing, But You're Pleasing
03. I Haven't Got Time To Cry
04. You Don't Miss A Good Thing
05. Some Things You Never Get Used To
06. Anyone Who Knows What Love Is
07. It's Starting To Get To Me Now
08. Times Have Changed
09. He's My Guy
10. Baby Don't Look Down
11. What Are You Trying To Do
12. Wait, Wait, Wait

1976 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Live)

1978 Soul Queen Of New Orleans

01. Breakaway
02. Ruler Of My Heart
03. Hittin' On Nothin'
04. Hip Shakin' Mama
05. For The Good Times
06. Don't Blame Him
07. Friendly
08. It's Raining
09. Wish Someone Would Care

horizontal bar


1981 Safe With Me (Live)

01. Safe With Me
02. A Woman Left Lonely
03. What's The Matter Baby
04. Zero Willpower
05. Dance Me Down Easy
06. Take It Where You Find It
07. Princess La-La
08. I Can't Help Myself
09. Don't Stop
10. Looking Back
11. Safe With Me(reprise

1986 The New Rules

01. The New Rules
02. Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry
03. I Needed Somebody
04. Good Things Don't Come Easy
05. The Love Of My Man
06. One More Time
07. Thinking Of You
08. The Wind Beneath My Wings
09. I Gave You Everything
10. Yours Until Tomorrow

1988 The Way I Feel

01. Old Records
02. Baby I Love You
03. Sorry Wrong Number
04. You Can Think Twice
05. Sit Down And Cry
06. All I Know Is The Way I Feel
07. I'm Gonna Hold You To Your Promise
08. I'll Take Care Of You
09. Dancing In The Street
10. You Don't Know Nothin' About Love

1990 Something Good: Muscle Shoals

01. Cheater Man
02. A Woman Will Do Wrong
03. Good To Me
04. We Got Something Good
05. Let's Do It Over
06. I Gave You Everything
07. I've Been Loving You Too Long
08. Security
09. Somewhere Crying
10. Don't Make Me Stop Now
11. Good Things Don't Come Easy
12. Here I Am, Take Me

1991 Live! Simply The Best

01. Breakaway
02. Time Is On My Side
03. Hip Shakin' Mama
04. That's What Love Is All About
05. Thinking Of You
06. I Needed Somebody
07. Medley: Loving You Too Long/etc.
08. Hittin' On Nothin'
09. It's Raining
10. Second Line Medley
11. Wish Someone Would Care
12. You Can Have My Husband
13. Oh Me, Oh My
14. Simply The Best

horizontal bar


1992 True Believer

01. Trying To Catch A Cab In The Rain
02. Can't You Hear It In My Tears
03. I Never Fool Nobody But Me
04. Smoke Filled Room
05. Big Talk
06. Chains Of Love
07. Heart Full Of Rain
08. Sweet Touch Of Love
09. I'll Be Satisfied
10. True Believer

1993 Walk Around Heaven: New Orleans Gospel Soul

01. Ask What You Will
02. I Know Prayer Changes Things
03. Careful Hands
04. Hold To God's Unchanging Hand
05. No Not One
06. I Will Say Yes Lord
07. Walk Around Heaven All Day
08. O Holy Night
09. Just A Little While To Stay Here
10. Where We'll Never Grow Old

1993 Turn My World Around

01. Turn My World Around
02. These Four Walls
03. You're The Dog
04. Coming From Behind
05. Wish Someone Would Care
06. In Between Tears
07. She'll Never Be Your wife
08. We Won't Be In Your Way Anymore
09. I'd Do It All Over You
10. What's So Wrong With You Loving Me

1994 Live! At The Kingfish

1997 The Story Of My Life

01. No Use Talking
02. The Story Of My Life
03. I Count The Teardrops
04. Cried Too Long
05. Love Don't Get No Better Than This
06. Hold My While I Cry
07. I Won't Cry For You
08. We All Need Love
09. Get Here
10. Keep The Faith
11. Dr. Feelgood

horizontal bar


2000 My Heart's In Memphis: The Songs Of Dan Penn

01. My Heart's In Memphis
02. Keep It Simple
03. Not Enough Time To Change
04. If You Want It, Come And Get It
05. Blue In The Heart
06. I'm Your Puppet
07. Irma's Song
08. Life At The End Of The Road
09. I Do
10. A Woman Left Lonely
11. Hurtin' For Certain
12. The Joke Is On You
13. Zero Willpower

2006 After The Rain

01. In The Middle Of It All
02. Flowers
03. I Count The Tears
04. Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
05. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
06. If You Knew How Much
07. Another Man Done Gone
08. Till I Can't Take It Anymore
09. These Honey Dos
10. Another Lonely Heart
11. Soul Of A Man
12. Stone Survivor
13. Shelter In The Rain

2008 Simply Grand

01. River Is Waiting
02. If I Had Any Sense I'd Go Back Home
03. Too Much Thinking
04. Early In The Morning
05. What Can I Do
06. Underground Stream
07. Thinking About You
08. Be You
09. This Bitter Earth
10. Cold Rain
11. Somebody Told You
12. Overrated
13. Same Old Blues
14. I Think It's Going To Rain Today

horizontal bar



Graphics by YSM

horizontal bar