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According to his family, composer Tony Joe White of "Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia" died suddenly late in the afternoon.
Nashville Tennessean

The songwriter "Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia" Tony Joe White died suddenly Wednesday afternoon at his home in Leiper & s Fork, Tennessee, according to his family.

"He was not sick at all," said his son, Jody White. "He just had a heart attack … there was no pain or suffering."

White was 75 years old and was known for his deep and gruff voice and his powerful "swamp rock" sound, which incorporated elements of blues, rock, country and R & B. Over the past half century, his songs have been recorded by countless greats, including Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Brook Benton, Ray Charles, Waylon Jennings, Tina Turner and many more.

"For me, he was just the definition of emotion," said his friend, the American Buddy Miller, who chose White to play in August in the inaugural show "Americana at the Ryman."

It was White's album, "The Train I'm On," produced by Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd, the one that captivated Miller for the first time: "The composition of the songs, their singing, everything came together. the storm of the perfect soul in every way … and we need all the soul we can get these days. "

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Tony Joe White was born on July 23, 1943 near Oak Grove, Louisiana. He was the youngest of seven children and grew up on a cotton farm.

His parents and all his brothers played music, White told The Tennessean last summer, but he was not inspired to play an instrument until his adolescence, when he first heard bluesman Lightnin & # 39; Hopkins.

"Until then, I've never played anything, I just sit and listen." he had said "But man, I started taking my dad's guitar to my room at night and learning the blues".

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He was inspired for the first time to write his own songs after listening to the song of Bobbie Gentry in 1967 "Ode to Billie Joe". Based on his own life experiences, White wrote enduring classics such as "Willie and Laura Mae Jones," which Springfield recorded, and "Rainy Night in Georgia," which has been recorded by Brook Benton and more than 100 other artists, all before become. 30

In the mid-1960s, White lived in Texas when he decided to come to Nashville. He ended up playing his songs for Bob Beckham of Combine Music, the man who would become his editor, confidant and mentor. "I was probably the only person in this whole city who would have listened to me, because my things were too far away from what everyone else was doing here," White told The Tennessean in 1983.

He added: "I played all the blues songs." Halfway through the second melody, he took me to his recording studio and we stayed there all day just doing nonsense and playing.

White's debut album, "Black and White," was recorded in Nashville and was released on Monument Records in 1969. His song "Soul Francisco" was a hit in France first, but the American public was finally enlivened by the baritone noise of White. Nine months after its release as a single, "Polk Salad Annie", the first song on the second side of "Black and White", entered the charts; it peaked at number 8.

Presley recorded "Polk Salad Annie" and performed it live. At the same time, the recording of "Rainy Night in Georgia" by R & B singer Brook Benton was expanding the charts. "It was just awesome … it changed my life," White said.

In the 1970s, White toured with acts like Sly and the Family Stone and Steppenwolf, and in the late 1980s, Tina Turner recorded four of her songs for her album "Foreign Affair," including the lead song and "Steamy Windows." "; White produced a song and also played on the record.

Last month, White released the blues album "Bad Mouthin", which he recorded on his Leiper & # 39; s Fork property in a low-cost recording studio that used to be a two-horse stable.

The reduced disc includes covers of songs recorded by Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Big Joe Williams, among others, as well as several originals, including a couple who wrote before "Polk Salad Annie". The album came out on September 28. That night he made his Grand Ole Opry debut.

"Composition has been everything that has sustained me," White told The Tennessean in 1983. "Throughout my career, that has kept me going … but I love playing even more than I like. to write".

Shortly before his death, White recorded several new songs that will be released in the future, said Jody White.

White is survived by his wife, Leann, his children Michelle, Jim Bob and Jody, and several grandchildren. The funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized.

This story is in progress and will be updated.

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