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TONY JOE WHITE,
1943-2018

Tony Joe White, the Louisiana swamp rocker who penned “A Rainy Night in Georgia” and scored a Top 10 hit with “Polk Salad Annie,” died Wednesday in Nashville. He was 75.

His family confirmed the death, giving no cause. White’s son, Jody, told The Tennessean that he had a heart attack.

A prolific songwriter, recording artist and live performer, White’s career lasted more than 50 years. Bad Mouthin’, his most recent release and 29th album overall, came out on Yep Roc in September.

Nicknamed Swamp Fox, his style was a gritty blend blues, country and rock ’n’ roll, his voice worn and weary. His first musical inspiration was the blues guitarist and singer Lightnin Hopkins; Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” inspired him to try songwriting, which led quickly to “Polk Salad Annie.”

He signed with Monument Records in 1967, working with Billy Swan and releasing three singles that went nowhere. Initially “Polk Salad Annie” appeared to be his fourth flop, but nine months after its release, the track gained steam and eventually rose to #8 in 1969.

R&B singer Brook Benton had a No. 4 hit in 1970 with White’s “Rainy Night in Georgia”; Elvis Presley, Willie NelsonDusty Springfield, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Ray Charles are among the artists who covered his songs.

He moved to Warner Bros. in the early 1970s and in the second half of the decade attempted to marry swamp rock with disco on albums for Casablanca and 20th Century with no commercial success.

In 1989, he worked with Tina Turner on Foreign Affair, which led to him securing a deal with Polydor. His last three albums have been released by Yep Roc

Glenn Dicker, co-founder of Yep Roc Records said, “Tony Joe White was a true American original. In everything he did he did it with his own unique voice. There was a gentle ease and flow that vibrated from the man. Always a positive vibe.”

Among the reactions on Twitter were these:

 

 

 

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