Born: December 24, 1926 | Died: December 1, 1986 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Lee Dorsey is highly regarded in the annals of soul singers which have come out of New Orleans. Bursting upon the national charts in 1961 with his #1 hit “Ya Ya,” and subsequent songs, he was able to achieve success and recognition throughout the ‘60’s which has sustained his reputation.
An ex-boxer nicknamed Kid Chocolate turned singer, Dorsey first recorded for the Instant label. One song, Lottie Mo became a regional hit and led to a contract with the Fury label.. The infectious Ya Ya (1961) was a number 1 US R&B and pop Top 10 single. Dorsey's next release Do-Re-Mi 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 more hits 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 Toussaint penned Get Out Of My Life, Woman (covered by Butterfield Blues Band) was another excellent song that deserved a better commercial fate. Everything I Do Goin’ 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 appeared on the 1976 debut album by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes and supported the Clash on their 1980 tour of North America.
Sadly, Lee Dorsey died of emphysema in December 1986 but is remembered for the outstanding examples of melodic soul he recorded.