Arts & Entertainment Industry Forum: Irma Thomas

Irma Thomas, the Grammy-winning "Soul Queen of New Orleans," is interviewed by longtime collaborator, Loyola professor Scott Billington (03/14/2016).

About Irma Thomas

Irma Thomas, the "Soul Queen of New Orleans,' is a renowned R&B, soul, blues, and gospel singer. Considered a contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James, she won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for After the Rain, her first Grammy win.

Irma began her career early in her teenage years, where she sang with a Baptist church choir and, at the age of 13, auditioned for Specialty Records. Gigs with bandleader Tommy Ridgley enabled her to land a record deal, and her first single, "(You Can Have My Husband but) Don't Mess with My Man," was released in 1959, reaching #22 on the Billboard R&B chart.

Together with legendary songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint, Irma recorded a slew of successful singles in the 1960s, including "It's Raining " and "Ruler of My Heart." Under Imperial records, Irma released her most commercially-successful work, including "Wish Someone Would Care," "Breakaway," "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)," and "Time Is On My Side," which was later covered famously by The Rolling Stones. "Wish Someone Would Care," became Irma's most successful single nationwide.

Irma spent the next several decades recording singles, and for a time moved to California. In 1991, she returned to recording under the Rounder Records label, and earned her first Grammy nomination with Live! Simply the Best, recorded in San Francisco. In the 1990s, Irma released a series of traditional gospel albums, earning another Grammy nominiation for Sing It! in 1999.

In 2007, Thomas was honored for her contributions to Louisiana music with an induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. In 2011, her classic track "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)" was featured in the second episode of the Netflix hit miniseries Black Mirror.