Lee Dorsey Biography

Irving Lee Dorsey, 24 December 1926, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 1 December 1986, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. An ex-boxer (nicknamed ‘Kid Chocolate’) turned singer, Dorsey first recorded for Joe Banashak’s Instant label. One song, ‘Lottie Mo’, became a regional hit and led to a contract with Fury. The infectious ‘Ya Ya’ (1961) was a number 1 US R&B and pop Top 10 single. A year later a version by Petula Clark, retitled ‘Ya Ya Twist’, made the US Top 10 and reached the UK Top 20. Dorsey’s next release ‘Do-Re-Mi’ (regularly performed by Georgie Fame and Dusty Springfield) was also a hit, although this time reaching no higher than 27 in the Billboard pop chart, and subsequent releases on Fury Records were less successful. His career stalled temporarily when Fury collapsed, but Dorsey re-emerged in 1965 with the classic ‘Ride Your Pony’ on the Amy label. Written by Allen Toussaint and produced by Marshall Sehorn, this combination created a series of impeccable singles that blended crisp arrangements with the singer’s easy delivery.

In 1966 he reached the peak of his success by gaining four Top 40 hits in the UK, including two Top 10 singles with ‘Working In The Coalmine’, featuring a wonderful bass riff, and ‘Holy Cow’, with a mix that enhances Dorsey’s melancholic vocals. Both songs reached the US R&B and pop charts. The sweetly doom-laden ‘Get Out Of My Life, Woman’ was another excellent song that deserved a better commercial fate. ‘Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On)’ became Dorsey’s last substantial hit in 1969, although the title track to his ‘concept’ album, ‘Yes We Can’, did reach the US R&B Top 50. Dorsey continued to record for Polydor Records and ABC Records and remained a popular figure, so much so that he guested on the 1976 debut album by Southside Johnny And The Asbury Dukes and supported the Clash on their 1980 tour of North America. Sadly, he died of emphysema in December 1986 and deserves to be remembered for the outstanding examples of melodic soul he recorded.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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