Singer, songwriter, Big Mama Thornton
birth name: Willie Mae Thornton

Big Mama Thornton

December 11, 1926, Montgomery, AL ~ July 25, 1984, Los Angeles, CA

She tapped into a liberated black femininity through which she freed herself from many of the expectations of musical, lyrical, physical, and sartorial practice for black women. I argue that these transgressions, central to her artistic voice, were at the heart of her musical identity, her appeal, and her influence. Her identity as a black woman, however, has made it difficult to hear and see Thornton in all of her resonant dimensions, especially in standard histories of rock and roll. ~ Maureen Mahon: Women And Music, A Journal Of Gender And Culture ~ 2011 © Maureen Mahon

Like many blues musicians, she never made much money, but was a big influence on many singers who did. ~ Songfacts: Hound Dog ~ retrieved July 23, 2013 © Songfacts

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Also on December 11 ~ Sam Cooke dies 

December 11, 1999 ~ Billboard Hot 100 ~ #3 (5) Jessica Simpson, I Wanna Love You Forever ~ #2 (2) Brian McKnight, Back At One ~ #1 (1) Santana featuring Rob Thomas, Smooth


Even if you’ve never heard Big Mama Thornton, born 85 years ago today, you’re probably familiar with some of her best-known songs. She was the first to record ‘Hound Dog,’ written for her by Leiber and Stoller and later a big hit for Elvis Presley, and her song ‘Ball and Chain’ later became a chart-topper for Janis Joplin. Born on the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama as one of seven siblings in 1926, like many entertainers of her generation, Willie Mae Thorton got her start singing in church. Her father was a Baptist minister and her mother sang in the choir. After winning a local singing contest at the age of 14, Thornton came to the attention of promoter Sammy Green and soon began her professional career by landing a spot on Green’s Georgia-based “Hot Harlem Review.” Billed as “The New Bessie Smith” she would tour the southeast with the group for seven years. ~ Big Mama Thornton ~ December 11, 2011 ©

Big Mama Thornton ~ Ranked #80 VH-1 100 Greatest Women Of Rock & Roll in 1999.

In 1995 two songs by Big Mama Thornton made it to the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll ~ Ball 'n' Chain ~ Hound Dog

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