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Lee Dorsey

Lee Dorsey epitomized the loose, easygoing charm of New Orleans R&B perhaps more than any other artist of the '60s. Working with legendary Crescent City producer/writer Allen Toussaint, Dorsey typically offered good-time party tunes with a playful sense of humor and a loping, funky backbeat. Even if he's remembered chiefly for the signature hit "Working in a Coalmine," it was a remarkably consistent and winning combination for the vast majority of his recording career.

Dorsey was born in New Orleans on December 24, 1924 (although some sources list 1926), and moved to Portland, OR, at age ten. After serving in the Navy during WWII, Dorsey returned to Portland and became a successful light heavyweight boxer, fighting under the name "Kid Chocolate." He retired from boxing in 1955 and returned to his birthplace, where he eventually opened a successful auto-body shop. He pursued a singing career by night, and wound up recording singles for several different labels, most of which made little noise (although "Lottie Mo" sold respectably). In 1961, he signed with Bobby Robinson's Fury label, where he entered the studio with producer Allen Toussaint for the first time. Dorsey's nonsense ditty "Ya Ya" -- reportedly inspired by a children's rhyme -- became his first national hit that year, reaching the pop Top Ten and hitting number one on the R&B charts. Despite its popularity, following it up turned out to be difficult, and with a large family to support, Dorsey returned to his auto repair business after a few more singles flopped.

Still, Allen Toussaint loved Dorsey's voice, and kept him in mind for future sessions. Toussaint's hunch paid off in 1965 when, signed to the Amy label, Dorsey turned "Ride Your Pony" into a Top Ten R&B hit. The accompanying album of the same name sold respectably as well, and Dorsey began cutting a multitude of Toussaint compositions, often with the legendary New Orleans funk ensemble the Meters as his studio backing band. The New Lee Dorsey was released later in 1966, and supplied Dorsey's best-known song, the irresistible "Working in a Coalmine" (which he co-wrote with Toussaint). With its clanking sound effects and Dorsey's comic exclamations, "Working in a Coalmine" became his second Top Ten pop hit and signature song, and Dorsey toured internationally with the Meters backing him up. A few follow-ups, particularly "Holy Cow" and "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)," met with some success, but Dorsey was once again hard pressed to duplicate his big hit, and once again left music for the practical concern of running his business. 1970's Yes We Can (on Polydor) was his last album for some time, with the title track becoming his last chart single.

After guesting on the Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes cut "How Come You Treat Me So Bad?," Dorsey attempted a comeback in 1977 with the ABC album Night People, which wasn't a commercial success despite mostly positive reviews. Still, it was enough to land him supporting slots on tours by the likes of James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, and even the Clash, whose 1980 tour was his last major concert jaunt. In the meantime, other artists mined his back catalog for covers: "Working in a Coalmine" was redone by robotic new wavers Devo and country duo the Judds; "Ya Ya" by Ike & Tina Turner, John Lennon, and Buckwheat Zydeco; "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)" by jazzman Lou Donaldson; and "Yes We Can" by the Pointer Sisters (under the new title "Yes We Can Can"). Dorsey continued to perform sporadically, as opportunities presented themselves, until he contracted emphysema; he died in New Orleans on December 1, 1986. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Holy Cow: The Very Best Of Lee Dorsey

1. Working In The Coalmine

2. Holy Cow

3. Ya Ya

4. Do-Re-Mi

5. Ride Your Pony

6. Confusion

7. Get Out Of My Life, Woman

8. Go-Go Girl

9. My Old Car

10. Love Lots Of Lovin'

11. Can You Hear Me?

12. Great Googa Mooga

13. Lottie Mo

14. You're Breaking Me Up

15. Four Corners

16. A Lover Was Born

17. Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On)

18. Give It Up

19. Yes We Can

20. Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley

21. Occapella

22. Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?

23. O Me-O, My-O

24. Riverboat

25. Freedom For The Stallion

26. On Your Way Down

27. Night People

28. Soul Mine

x

Track List: Yes We Can / Night People

2. Riverboat

3. Tears, Tears And More Tears

4. O Me-O, My-O

5. Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley

7. Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?

8. Games People Play

10. Occapella

11. Gator Tail

13. When Can I Come Home?

14. On Your Way Down

16. God Must Have Blessed America

17. Soul Mine

20. Night People

21. Can I Be The One

x

Track List: Wheelin' And Dealin' - The Definitive Collection

1. Ya Ya

2. Do-Re-Mi

3. Ride Your Pony

4. Work Work Work

5. Can You Hear Me

6. Get Out Of My Life, Woman

7. Confusion

8. Working In A Coalmine

9. Holy Cow

11. Gotta Find A Job

12. Love Lots Of Lovin'

13. My Old Car

14. Go-Go Girl

15. I Can't Get Away

16. Lottie Mo '68

17. A Lover Was Born

18. Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky (From Now On)

19. Give It Up

20. Candy Yam

x

Track List: Soul Mine: The Greatest Hits And More 1960 - 1978

Disc 1

1. Lottie Mo

2. Lover Of Love

3. Oo-Na-Nay

4. You Better Tell Her

5. Great Googa Mooga

6. As Quiet As It's Kept

7. Lonelyology (For Your Love)

12. Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley

13. Tears, Tears And More Tears

14. River Boat

15. Yes, We Can - Part 1

16. Soul Mine

17. If I Were A Carpenter

18. Honest, I Do

19. A Place Where We Can Be Free

20. Can I Be The One?

21. Night People

22. Am I That Easy To Forget?

23. Before The Next Teardrop Falls

25. Working In The Coalmine (Live)

26. Lottie Mo (Live)

Disc 2

1. Ya Ya

2. Do-Re-Mi

3. Behind The Eight Ball

4. When I Meet My Baby

5. Hoodlum Joe

6. Messed Around (And Fell In Love)

7. Ride Your Pony

8. Can You Hear Me?

9. Work, Work, Work

10. Get Out Of My Life, Woman

11. Confusion

12. Working In The Coal Mine

13. Holy Cow

14. Rain, Rain, Go Away

15. My Old Car

16. I Can't Get Away

17. Go-Go Girl

18. Cynthia

19. Wonder Woman

20. Four Corners - Part 1

21. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter

22. A Lover Was Born

23. Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On)

24. Give It Up

25. What You Want (Is What You Get)

26. Freedom For The Stallion

27. When Can I Come Home?

28. On Your Way Down

29. God Must Have Blessed America

x

Track List: Funky As I Can Be!

1. Ya Ya

2. Do-Re-Mi

3. Behind The 8-Ball

4. Great Googa Mooga

5. Oo-Na-Nay

6. You Better Tell Her

7. Lonelyology (For Your Love)

8. Radio Commercials

9. My Babe

10. What Am I Living For

11. Yes We Can

12. Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley

13. Night People

14. Working In The Coal Mine [live]

15. Lottie Mo [live]

16. Ride Your Pony [live]

Comments

Report as inappropriate
sooooooooooo o o good
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dglazier59
Can't be beat!!
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aaaaahhhhhhh h h h h h h h h h h h h h h
Report as inappropriate
e.gottlieb07
Oh Yeah!!!!!
Report as inappropriate
no school like the old school!
Report as inappropriate
smoooooooooo o o o o t h . . .

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