Keeping the Blues Alive / Blues News  / Irma Thomas, Soul Queen of New Orleans

Hailing from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, and known to many as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans,” Irma Thomas began singing as a little girl for her Baptist church choir and had her first record company audition at 13 years old.  In 2007, Thomas was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, the same year she won her Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for her 18th studio album, After the Rain. While she never reached the height of popularity of contemporaries like Aretha Franklin and Etta James, she still had several hits that charted on the Billboard’s Top 100, and has maintained a career of over 50 years, still performing in music festivals today.

“Anyone Who Knows What Love Is” was written by Randy Newman and Jeannie Seely, both in the early days of their careers at the time. While it didn’t make as big of an impact upon initial release as Irma’s previous singles, or even its B-side, it has certainly stood the test of time, and you’ll more than likely recognize it, as it has been heard on several TV shows and film trailers in recent years. The song’s most notable resurgence is on Netflix’s Black Mirror, where it has appeared in several episodes across four different seasons.

This particular video is from Thomas’ appearance on American Bandstand on August 25, 1964, one of the first times she sang the song live. Having an effortless presence with little more than her voice to carry the performance, she delivers the haunting melody impeccably. A smooth voice and minimal gestures from Thomas accompanied by the striking back-up vocals set the stage for a vulnerable and unforgettable song. Enjoy!

 

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