The Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, was born Feb. 18, 1941 in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, probably coming into the world singing rather than crying. By age 19, she had been married twice and was mother to four children; she also had had her first national hit, “Don’t Mess with My Man,” which scraped the Top 20 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1959.
In 1964, Thomas was recording for Imperial Records and had her biggest pop hit when “Wish Someone Would Care” hit No. 17. At two and a half minutes, it’s the perfect shot of soul; one can be forgiven for wishing it would go on and on and on.
She had more hits while on Imperial, including "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand),” “Times Have Changed” and “He’s My Guy.” Her last single for the label was her 1966 take on James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World,” retitled “It’s a Man’s-Woman’s World.”
Two years later, in 1968, Thomas was on the great blues label Chess Records and recording in Muscle Shoals, AL. Her final R&B chart hit dropped that year – “Good to Me.”
We would be remiss if we did not include in this appreciation one of the great interpretations of a Christmas classic ever committed to tape – Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night,” from the 1990 compilation A Creole Christmas.
Irma Thomas continues to perform and occasionally record, and is considered to be among the greatest soul and blues singers to ever step to the mic, whether singing her own compositions or interpreting the material of other writers. She is, quite simply, an American treasure.