‘Child, when you’re born a woman you gonna have to get used to the taste of the salt in your tears.’
‘Now I ain’t telling you every man’s a devil but believe me everyone of them has some of the devil in him and you better be ready for that’
‘Of course, some sweet men got a touch of the angel about them – if you find one of those girl you better hang on tight!’
‘But, beware! Some of them are full of love and smiles one day (specially when you young) but the next they can curl their lip and leave you all alone (specially when you older)’
‘Why your own Daddy didn’t stay around long enough to see you crawl before he was chasing some other dream somewhere down the road. And, he never looked back’.
‘Lookin’ the way you do girl you never gonna be short of suitors. Likely, you gonna meet some good and some bad. Get your share of sunshine.
And, Lord knows, you gonna get your share of rain. Sometimes, it’s really gonna come down, really gonna come down.’
‘Sometimes all you can do is wait it out til the sun comes rolling round heaven again.’
‘And, I guarantee it wont be too long before you be prayin’ for someone new to make it right again.’
‘Because, darlin’ girl, aint no woman alive, no matter how bad the last man treated her don’t wish, really wish, that out there in the night, somewhere along the road – there’s someone who will really care.’
‘Don’t ever give up on that’
‘Now girl, sometimes a man you want gonna need some persuading – you think you can do that?’
‘Mama – I know I can, I know I can!’
‘And, I gotta tell you mama any man who leaves me behind gonna rue the day.
He wont be very far down the road before he realises he never gonna find one like me gain.
Oh, then, he’ll be thinkin’ of running all the way back to beg me on his knees to take him back.
He gonna find I need a lot of persuading. A lot.
He gonna find time is on my side. My side.’
Need I say more?
The above dialogue is of course, fiction.
Yet, it can’t hope to come close to the drama of Irma Thomas’ own life.
Born 1941 in rural Ponchatoula, La she was raised in New Orleans and by the age of 19 was twice married and the mother of four children.
Working as a 16 year old cocktail waitress she shared a stage with Tommy Ridgley at the Pimlico Club.
Tommy and anyone with half an ear could tell that this girl could really sing! Joe Ruffino at Ron Records was persuaded too leading to the release in May 1960 of the deliriously fiesty, ‘(You can have my husband, But please) Don’t mess with my man’.
She soon moved to the larger Minit label where she was fortunate to work with the great Alan Toussaint. Her records also benefited from the superb arranging and production skills of H B Barnum.
Together this team produced a series of heart shredding classics which will always burn deep before the dark altar of deep soul.
The four sides featured above showcase a singer who emerges, bruised, from the shadows to share the secrets of a heart that has known joy and pain.
Yet, that battered heart beats on, beats on, beats on – encouraging ours to do the same whatever trials beset us.
Her vocal performance in her own, ‘Wish Someone would Care’ must set some kind of benchmark in soul balladry.
Indeed, before she has sung a word her opening tear choked moans crack the heart wide open.
Then, we can only surrender to the swooning majesty of her superbly paced vocal which is immeasurably assisted by the downriver flow of the organ and the dread and doom insistence of the drums.
Here, by an act of creative faith, Irma Thomas has encapsulated a lifetime of feeling in less than 150 seconds.
This record can never die. There will always be trial and tribulation in this vale of tears.
And, as the night ends and the dawn is about to break all you can say as you ready yourself to face another day is:
Mmmmm, Mmmmmm, Mmmmmm, Mmmmm.
The best compilation of Irma’s magnificent early 60s recordings is, ‘Time is on my side’ on the Kent label.
From her later work I recommend investigation of the excellent series she made for Rounder Records – especially, ‘The New Rules’