Friday, February 5, 2016

Lee Dorsey – "Working in the Coal Mine" (1966)

Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin' down, down, down

Allen Toussaint, the New Orleans talent scout, record producer, studio owner, and songwriter who died of a heart attack last November, was described by one obituary writer as “one of popular music’s great backroom figures.”

Tonight, the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club will host a tribute to Toussaint and other musicians who passed away in 2015 – including Lynn Anderson, Natalie Cole, Lesley Gore, B. B. King, Ben E. King, Billy Joe Royal, Percy Sledge, Scott Weiland, and Cory Wells.  Click here for more information about that show.

Allen Toussaint in the recording
studio with Paul McCartney
My favorite Allen Toussaint composition was “Fortune Teller” (which was recorded by the Rolling Stones, among others) but “Working in the Coal Mine” is a close second.

“Coal Mine” was one of several Toussaint songs recorded by Lee Dorsey, a New Orleans native whose family moved to Portland, Oregon, when he was ten.

Dorsey joined the Navy and later became a lightweight boxer, fighting under the name “Kid Chocolate.”  But after Dorsey retired from boxing, he moved back to New Orleans and opened an auto body shop.

Lee Dorsey
In an interview that was published just days before his death, Toussaint had this to say about Dorsey:

Lee Dorsey was a wonderful, high-spirited, fun guy who always carried a smile.  He carried a smile in his talk, on his face and in his heart.  He had a wonderful time in his life.  He was very good to work with.  Very inspiring because he had such a happiness about him.  He loved what he was doing when he was singing.  He was a body and fender man when he wasn’t singing and even at his peak, when he would come off the road at the end of a successful tour, he would go and get into his grease clothes, his dirty work gear and go and work on cars.  Straightening out fenders and painting bodywork. But really it was his finest hour when he was singing. 

Here’s “Working in the Coal Mine”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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