Friday, October 26, 2018

American music legend Tony Joe White, R.I.P.

Tony Joe White 2018, photo courtesy Yep Roc Records
Tony Joe White 2018, photo courtesy Yep Roc Records

Singer, songwriter, and American music legend Tony Joe White has passed away at the age of 75 years according to his record label Yep Roc Records and confirmed by his family. A heart attack is said to be the cause of death.

White was a prolific songwriter and recording artist with sixteen studio albums, four live albums, and 29 singles to his name including “Polk Salad Annie,” the 1969 hit that would become his signature song. White’s career spanned 50+ years as he plumbed the depths of American music with an enduring blend of roots-rock, country, blues, and country music that would influence an entire generation of young singer/songwriters.

As a songwriter, White’s songs were recorded by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, and Dusty Springfield, among many others. In addition to “Polk Salad Annie,” which has been covered by over a dozen artists, White wrote “Rainy Night In Georgie,” which became a #4 chart hit in 1970 for R&B star Brook Benton. The song has since been recorded by a number of country, blues, soul, and even reggae artists.

White never scored another big hit after “Polk Salad Annie” and his career struggled during the late 1970s and well into the ‘80s until he was asked to produce a single track for Tina Turner’s 1989 album Foreign Affair. White ended up contributing four songs to the album, including the title track and the hit single “Steamy Windows,” as well as playing guitar and harmonica on the tracks. The success of Foreign Affair (over six million copies sold worldwide) rejuvenated White’s career, and he continued to tour and record until his death.

Tony Joe White 1970, photo courtesy Monument Records
Tony Joe White 1970, photo courtesy Monument Records
White’s original and pioneering style of Americana won him a new audience during the past decade, and he recorded three critically-acclaimed albums for Yep Roc Records, including Bad Mouthin’, which was released in September 2018. Bad Mouthin’ included six original songs by White as well as a cover of the Elvis Presley hit “Heartbreak Hotel” and several blues standards including songs by Charley Patton and John Lee Hooker. The album was produced by his son, Jody White.

In a state about White’s passing, Glenn Dicker, co-founder of Yep Roc Records said, “Tony Joe White was a true American original. In everything he did he did it with his own unique voice. There was a gentle ease and flow that vibrated from the man. Always a positive vibe. We have been very fortunate to have been able to work with Tony Joe over these past few albums and years. We’re grateful for all the wonderful music…and the hangs. We love you Tony Joe!”

Rolling Stone magazine’s Tony Joe White obituary

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