NPR

Irma Thomas: She Sings The Songs

When New Orleans R&B singer Irma Thomas arrived for her studio session with KPLU, we knew she was ready for any song request we might throw at her. We knew this, because she brought her Book with her.

The Book is something Thomas takes to every performance, and it contains the lyrics to all the songs she's recorded in her 50-year career. She uses it when her fans call out requests for songs she might have forgotten, or songs she recorded years ago but never included in her ongoing live repertoire. Thomas wants to give her fans what they want, and if that means that she and her band have to do an impromptu arrangement of a song she hasn't sung in years, so be it. Thomas will give it a try. And the amazing thing is, she always pulls it off.

As it turned out, she didn't need her Book during her time with us. She started with one of her classics, which she wrote and recorded in 1964: "I Wish Someone Would Care." That was followed by "Let It Be Me" from her latest release, The Soul Queen of New Orleans -- 50th Anniversary Celebration. And, after a little conversation about her lifelong connection with New Orleans and the great musicians she's worked with in that city (including Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and Eddie Bo), she closed her set with a song she's never recorded: a terrific version of Bill Withers' "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh."

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