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Profile: Lee Dorsey

By

Lee Dorsey

Lee Dorsey

source: microwaves101.com

Born:

Irving Lee Dorsey, December 24, 1924, New Orleans, LA; d. December 1, 1986, New Orleans, LA

Genres:

New Orleans Soul, Funk, R&B

Instruments:

Vocals

Contributions to music:

  • Bridged the gap between New Orleans' soul and developing funk scenes in the Sixties
  • The most famous exporter of New Orleans Soul to the UK
  • With his hits, provided crucial national exposure for songwriter Allen Toussaint and funk legends the Meters
  • Helped define the Crescent City's funk revolution of the early Seventies
  • A major influence on countless R&B and hip-hop artists

Early years:

Dorsey epitomized the New Orleans music scene of the 1960s, yet he spent a number of years in Portland, OR, moving there at the age of ten and, after a successful Navy stint, eventually making a name for himself there as an amateur lightweight boxer named "Kid Chocolate." Returning to New Orleans in the late Fifties, he opened an auto body shop and began singing R&B around town at night. Although he cut several records for local labels, success eluded him until 1961, when Dorsey, ran into the future of the city's sound, producer/songwriter Allen Toussaint, at a local party.

Success:

Toussaint convinced him to record for the New Orleans-based Fury label, and the first song Lee presented to him -- fashioned after a children's rhyme he'd heard in the street -- was "Ya Ya," which eventually became an international hit. The followup soundalike "Do Re Mi," which had more lyrical substance courtesy of Toussaint, also took off. But continuing the streak proved difficult, and when Allen went off on his own tour of duty, Dorsey went back to servicing cars.

Later years:

When Allen returned in 1965, however, he got Lee back in the studio, along with some backing musicians who played a new sort of R&B known as "funk." Eventually evolving into The Meters, they led Lee through a string of R&B hits through the mid-Seventies, culminating in the critically acclaimed (but commercially unsuccessful) 1978 album Night People. And even though Dorsey's career was inevitably tied to Toussaint's own decline, he remained a beloved fixture, both on the local scene and to soul and funk aficionados around the world. Dorsey died at home of emphysema in 1986 at the age of 61.

Other facts:

  • Reportedly sired 32 children by different mothers
  • Was an avid motorcyclist who preferred Harley-Davidsons
  • Died from a combination of his smoking habit and the fumes from his body and fender shop
  • Opened for the Clash on their 1980 tour of America
  • Dorsey's 1968 hit "Get Out My Life, Woman" remains one of the most sampled tracks in hip-hop
  • The Beastie Boys' 1994 hit "Sure Shot" features the line "Everything I do is funky like Lee Dorsey," a reference to his landmark funk hit "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)" (1969)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
R&B:
  • "Ya Ya" (1961)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Ya Ya" (1961)
  • "Working In The Coal Mine" (1966)
R&B:
  • "Ride Your Pony" (1965)
  • "Holy Cow" (1966)
  • "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" (1966)
  • "Working In The Coal Mine" (1966)
Other popular recordings: "Do-Re-Mi," "Go-Go Girl," "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)," "Yes We Can," "Work, Work, Work," " Can You Hear Me," "Confusion," "Operation Heartache," "Gotta Find A Job," "Love Lots Of Lovin'," "My Old Car," "I Can't Get Away," "Lottie Mo '68," "A Lover Was Born," "Give It Up," "Candy Yam," "People Gonna Talk," "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley," "Great Googa Mooga," "Four Corners," "Oo-Na-Nay," "You Better Tell Her," "Lonelyology (For Your Love)," "Riverboat," "Tears, Tears And More Tears," "O Me-O, My-O," "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?," "Games People Play," "When The Bill's Paid," "Occapella," "Gator Tail," "Would You?," "When Can I Come Home?" "On Your Way Down," "Say It Again," "God Must Have Blessed America," "Soul Mine," "Keep On Doing It To Me," "Thank You," "Can I Be The One," "Night People"
Covered by: Robert Palmer, John Lennon, The Pointer Sisters, Devo, The Judds, Ringo Starr, Petula Clark, Slim Harpo, Linda Ronstadt, Pure Prairie League, Booker T. and the MGs, The Capitols, Alexis Corner, Harry Connick Jr., Blue Swede, Johnny Hallyday, Steve Miller, Buckwheat Zydeco, Lee Michaels, Ike & Tina Turner, Joey Dee and the Starliters, Tommy James and the Shondells, Chuck Jackson, Rufus Thomas, The Wailers
Appears in the movies: "Robin" (1979)
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