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Irma Thomas

Irma Thomas as "MISS MARIE"

Irma Thomas (b.1941 Ponchatoula, Louisiana) is a Grammy Award winning soul and rhythm and blues singer, known as the "Soul Queen of New Orleans."

In 2007, she was awarded a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album for After the Rain. It was her first Grammy in an acclaimed career spanning over 45 years.

Copy of #38 50th celebration Soul Queen Album

Born Irma Lee, as a teen she sang with a Baptist church choir, auditioning for Specialty Records as a 13-year old. By the age of 19 she had been married twice and had four children. She worked as a waitress in New Orleans, occasionally singing with bandleader Tommy Ridgley, who helped her land a record deal with the local Ron label. Her first single, "You Can Have My Husband but Don't Mess with My Man," was released in spring 1960, and reached number 22 on the Billboard R&B chart.

She then began recording on the Minit label, working with legendary songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint on songs including “It’s Raining” and “Ruler of my Heart,” which was later reinterpreted by Otis Redding as "Pain In My Heart.” 

Imperial Records acquired Minit in 1963, and a string of successful releases followed. These included "I Wish Someone Would Care” (her biggest national hit), its B-side " Break-a-Way” (later covered by Tracey Ullman among others), "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is,” and "Time Is on My Side" (a song later recorded by the Rolling Stones).

Irma recorded for Chess Records before returning to Louisiana, and in the early 1980s opened her own club, the Lion's Den.  After several years break she was signed by Rounder Records, and in 1991 earned her first-ever Grammy nomination for Live! Simply the Best, recorded in San Francisco. She followed with a number of traditional gospel albums. The album Sing It! was also nominated for a Grammy in 1999.

In April 2007, Irma Thomas was honored for her contribution to Louisiana music with induction into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.  She was the subject of the 2008 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival poster.

In August 2009, a compilation album with three new songs titled The Soul Queen of New Orleans: 50th Anniversary Celebration was released from Rounder Records to commemorate Thomas' 50th year as a recording artist.

Irma Thomas is still active as a performer, appearing annually at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and other major jazz festivals around the world.