Songwriter Tony Joe White Dead at 75
"He wasn’t ill at all," says Jody White, the tunesmith's son. "There was no pain or suffering."
White released more than a dozen albums as an artist himself, and earned a Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit with his song "Polk Salad Annie," but he is best known as a songwriter. "Polk Salad Annie" was covered by, among others, Elvis Presley, while "Rainy Night in Georgia" was made famous by rock / pop / R&B artist Brook Benton and "Steamy Windows" became a Top 40 single for Tina Turner.
Born on July 23, 1943, in Louisiana, White grew up on a cotton farm and was the youngest of seven children in a musical family. It was blues artist Lightnin' Hopkins whose music inspired White to begin playing guitar.
"Up to then, I never played nothing. I just sit and listened," White told the Tennessean in 2017. "But man, I started sneaking my dad’s guitar up to my room at night and learning the blues."
Singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry -- specifically her song "Ode to Billie Joe" -- got White to try his hand at songwriting. He was known for fusing blues, country and R&B in his songs, creating a style dubbed "swamp rock."
White only just made his Grand Ole Opry debut, on Sept. 28; that same day, he released a blues album, Bad Mouthin'. His son says he recently recorded some new songs, which his family is hoping to release in the future.
White is survived by his wife, Leann; three children, Michelle, Jim Bob and Jody; and several grandchildren. His funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.