Lee Dorsey

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Lee Dorsey
Lee Dorsey.jpg
Background information
Birth nameIrving Lee Dorsey
Born(1924-12-24)December 24, 1924
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedDecember 1, 1986(1986-12-01) (aged 61)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
GenresR&B, soul, funk
Years activeLate 1950s–1986
LabelsFury, Amy, Polydor, ABC

Irving Lee Dorsey (December 24, 1924[1] – December 1, 1986)[2] was an 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.


Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Dorsey was a childhood friend of Fats Domino. He moved to Portland, Oregon when he was ten years old.[3] He served in the United States Navy in World War II and began a career in prizefighting. Boxing as a featherweight in Portland in the early 1950s, he fought under the name Kid Chocolate and was not successful, fighting only one time and being knocked out in the second round He returned to New Orleans in 1955, where he opened an auto repair business as well as singing in clubs at night.[2] https://boxrec.com/en/proboxer/148559

His first recording was "Rock Pretty Baby/Lonely Evening" on Cosimo Mattasa's Rex label, in 1958. This was followed by the Allen Toussaint-produced "Lottie Mo/Lover of Love", for the small Valiant label in late 1960 (picked up by ABC Paramount in 1961).[4] 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.[5] After meeting songwriter and record producer Allen Toussaint at a party,[6] he recorded "Ya Ya", a song inspired by a group of children chanting nursery rhymes.[2] It went to number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[7] 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,[2] but also released singles on the Smash and Constellation labels in 1963 and 1964.[4]

He was 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.[2] 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 returned to his auto repair business.[5]

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.[2][5]

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


Dorsey's songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Petula Clark and Johnny Hallyday ("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" (1966) was performed often by the Byrds (who based their instrumental "Captain Soul" on it), the Jerry Garcia Band, also predated the boom bap beat of the 90s Hip Hop; 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 "Sure Shot", with the lyric "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.[citation needed]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Lee Dorsey among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[8]



  • Ya Ya (1962)
  • Ride Your Pony - Get Out of My Life Woman (1966)
  • The New Lee Dorsey - Working in the Coalmine (1966)
  • Yes We Can (1970)
  • Night People (1978)
  • All Ways Funky (1982)
  • Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (1967–1969) (compilation of non-album material)


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Pop[9] US
1959 "Rock"
b/w "Lonely Evening" (Non-album track)
Non-album tracks
1961 "Lover Of Love"
b/w "Lottie-Mo"
"Ya Ya"
b/w "Give Me You"
7 1 Ya! Ya!
b/w "Lonely Evening" (Non-album track)
Second standard pressing
Non-album tracks
b/w "People Gonna Talk"
27 22 Ya! Ya!
1962 "Eenie-Meenie-Minee-Mo"
b/w "Behind The 8-Ball"
"You Are My Sunshine"
b/w "Give Me Your Love"
Non-album tracks
1963 "Hoodlum Joe"
b/w "When I Met My Baby"
"Hello Good Looking"
b/w "Someday"
1964 "Organ Grinder Swing"
b/w "I Gotta Find A New Love"
"You're Breaking Me Up"
b/w "Messed Around (and Fell In Love)"
1965 "Ride Your Pony"
b/w "The Kitty Cat Song"
28 7 Ride Your Pony - Get Out of My Life Woman
"Work, Work, Work"
b/w "Can You Hear Me"
1966 "Get Out of My Life, Woman"
b/w "So Long"
44 5 22
b/w "Neighbor's Daughter"
38 The New Lee Dorsey
"Working In The Coal Mine"
b/w "Mexico"
8 5 8
"Holy Cow"
b/w "Operation Heartache" (Non-album track)
23 10 6
1967 "Rain Rain Go Away"
b/w "Gotta Find A Job"
Non-album tracks
"My Old Car"
b/w "Why Wait Until Tomorrow"
"Vista, Vista"
b/w "I Can't Get Away"
"Go-Go Girl"
b/w "I Can Hear You Callin'"
62 31
"Love Lots Of Lovin'"
b/w "Take Care Of Our Love" (Non-album track)
Both sides with Betty Harris
Holy Cow! The Best Of Lee Dorsey
1968 "Cynthia"
b/w "I Can't Get Away"
Non-album tracks
"Wonder Woman"
b/w "A Little Dab A Do Ya" (from The New Lee Dorsey)
"Four Corners"—Part 1
b/w Part 2
"I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write
Myself A Letter"
b/w "Little Ba-by"
1969 "A Lover Was Born"
b/w "What Now My Love"
"Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)"
b/w "There Should Be A Book" (Non-album track)
95 33 Holy Cow! The Best Of Lee Dorsey
"Give It Up"
b/w "Candy Yam"
Non-album tracks
1970 "Yes We Can"—Part 1
b/w "O Me-O, My-O"
46 Yes We Can
"What You Want (Is What You Get)"
b/w "I Can Hear You Callin'"
Non-album tracks
1971 "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley"
b/w "Tears, Tears and More Tears"
Yes We Can
"Tears, Tears and More Tears"
b/w "Occapella"
1972 "Freedom For The Stallion"
b/w "If She Won't (Find Someone Who Will)"
Non-album tracks
"When Can I Come Home"
b/w "Gator Tail" (from Yes We Can)
1973 "On Your Way Down"
b/w "Freedom For The Stallion"
1978 "Night People"
b/w "Can I Be The One"
93 Night People
"Say It Again"
b/w "God Must Have Blessed America"
1980 "Hey Babe"
b/w "Say It Again"
1982 "Draining"
b/w "Soul Mine"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 175. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Lee Dorsey | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Lichtenstein, Grace; Dankner, Laura (October 13, 1993). Musical Gumbo: The Music of New Orleans. W.W. Norton. ISBN 9780393034684 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b "ldorsey". Soulfulkindamusic.net. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Buckley, Peter (October 13, 2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. Rough Guides. ISBN 9781843531050 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Lee Dorsey Page". Tsimon.com. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  7. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 134. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  8. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 206. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–1995. Record Research. p. 121.
  11. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952–2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 234. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.

External links[edit]