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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bobby Charles

I don't usually do obituaries, especially not for people whose life my knowledge is rather limited of, but Bobby Charles seems like a good enough exception to begin with. Most of you will most likely be tempted to ask who Bobby Charles was and I'll respond that most (if not) all of you know at least something about him. Namely his biggest (only?) hit: See you later Alligator. Now of course this song was covered by Bill Haley and in that (by far worse) version became famous, but Bobby Charles' version is not just better he also penned it himself. What is astonishing about Charles' version is that it sounds black, like Rhythm and Blues, not like the white Rock and Roll that was emerging as popular with Bill Haley and later Elvis around the same time. Chess records actually signed him unseen, having assumed he was a black artist after listening to him perform the song.

Bobby Charles never became a Rock and Roll star, but he became a prolific songwriter penning quite a few classics of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues. But I do for Clarence 'Frogman' Henry and Walking to New Orleans for Fats Domino for example. He also kept on recording, producing a beautiful self-titled début album (check out Street People off of that album), even recording some Cajun-tinged country sides in the 60s. Finally, he came out with a beautiful album in 1999 containing one of my favorite songs of these last few years: I spent all my money my loving you (I cannot find this in a streamable version sadly enough).

He passed away last Thursday. He should (and will) be remembered.

NY Times
Times Picayune

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