Lee Dorsey

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Lee Dorsey
Lee Dorsey.jpg
Background information
Birth name Irving Lee Dorsey
Born (1924-12-24)December 24, 1924
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died December 1, 1986(1986-12-01) (aged 61)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Genres R&B, soul
Occupations singer
Years active Late 1950s–1986
Labels Fury, Amy, Polydor, ABC

Irving Lee Dorsey (December 24, 1924 – December 1, 1986)[1] was an African American pop and R&B singer during the 1960s. His biggest hits were "Ya Ya" (1961) and "Working in the Coal Mine" (1966). Much of his work was produced by Allen Toussaint with instrumental backing provided by the Meters.

Career[edit]

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Dorsey was a childhood friend of Fats Domino before moving to Portland, Oregon when he was ten years old.[2] He served in the United States Navy in World War II and then began a career in prizefighting. Boxing as a lightweight in Portland in the early 1950s, he fought under the name Kid Chocolate and was reasonably successful. He retired from boxing in 1955 and returned to New Orleans, where he opened an auto repair business as well as singing in clubs at night.[1]

His first recording was "Lottie Mo", for the small Valiant label in 1958, and he also recorded for the Rex label.[3] These efforts were unsuccessful, but around 1960 he was discovered by A&R man Marshall Sehorn, who secured him a contract with Fury Records, owned by Bobby Robinson.[4] After meeting songwriter and record producer Allen Toussaint at a party,[5] he recorded "Ya Ya", a song inspired by a group of children chanting nursery rhymes.[1] It went to number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[6] Although the follow-up "Do-Re-Mi" also made the charts, later releases on Fury were not successful. Dorsey returned to running his repair business,[1] but also released singles on the small Smash and Constellation labels in 1963 and 1964.[3]

He was then approached again by Toussaint, and recorded Toussaint's song "Ride Your Pony" for the Amy label, a subsidiary of Bell Records. The song reached no.7 on the R&B chart in late 1965, and he followed it up with "Get Out Of My Life, Woman", "Working in the Coal Mine" – his biggest pop hit – and "Holy Cow", all of which made the pop charts in both the US and the UK. Dorsey toured internationally, and also recorded an album with Toussaint, The New Lee Dorsey in 1966.[1] In 1970 Dorsey and Toussaint collaborated on the album Yes We Can; the title song was Dorsey's last entry in the US singles chart. It was later a hit for the Pointer Sisters under the title, "Yes We Can Can". With declining sales, Dorsey then returned to his auto repair business.[4]

In 1976 Dorsey appeared on the album I Don't Want to Go Home by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, which led to more recordings on his own with ABC Records, including the album Night People. In 1980, he opened for English punk band The Clash on their US concert tour, and also toured in support of James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis.[1][4]

Dorsey contracted emphysema and died on December 2, 1986, in New Orleans, at the age of 61.[1]

Legacy[edit]

Dorsey's songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Petula Clark ("Ya Ya Twist," a 1962 French version of "Ya Ya") and Devo ("Working in the Coal Mine"). "Ya Ya" was covered on John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album. "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" was performed often by the Jerry Garcia Band, and Robert Palmer had a hit with "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley." His version of the Allen Toussaint song "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)" is referenced in the Beastie Boys' song lyrics for "Sure Shot" - "...everything I do is funky like Lee Dorsey." "Ya Ya" was spoken by Cheech Marin in Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, as he was waiting for his girlfriend.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • Ya Ya (1962)
  • Ride Your Pony (1966)
  • The New Lee Dorsey - Working in the Coalmine (1966)
  • Yes We Can (1970)
  • Night People (1978)

Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[7] US
R&B
[8]
UK[9]
1961 "Ya Ya" 7 1 -
"Do-Re-Mi" 27 22 -
1965 "Ride Your Pony" 28 7 -
1966 "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" 44 5 22
"Confusion" - - 38
"Working in the Coal Mine" 8 5 8
"Holy Cow" 23 10 6
1967 "My Old Car" 97 - -
"Go-Go Girl" 62 31 -
1969 "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)" 95 33 -
1970 "Yes We Can - Part 1" - 46 -
1978 "Night People" - 93 -

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Allmusic biography
  2. ^ Grace Lichtenstein, Musical Gumbo: The Music of New Orleans, W W Norton & Company Incorporated, 1993, pp.118-120
  3. ^ a b Discography at SoulfulKindaMusic. Retrieved 8 July 2013
  4. ^ a b c Alan Clayson, Lee Dorsey, in Peter Buckley (ed.), The Rough Guide to Rock, Rough Guides, 2003, pp.309-310
  5. ^ Lee Dorsey at TSimon.com. Retrieved 8 July 2013
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 134. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 206. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 121. 
  9. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 234. ISBN 0-00-717931-6. 

External links[edit]