As reported by American Songwriter, musician and songwriter Tony Joe White—the writer behind “Polk Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night In Georgia”—has died. Though not necessarily a household name himself, White’s work was covered by Elvis Presley, Tina Turner, Time McGraw, Ray Charles, Kenny Chesney, and many others. White was 75.
White was born in Louisiana in 1943, and though he played at dances and local clubs as a young man, his first big break came when Monument Records signed him in 1967 and released his first album in 1969. That album, Black And White, featured “Polk Salad Annie,” White’s biggest and most influential song. As American Songwriter explains, the track reflects his “hardscrabble childhood growing up in the cotton country and swamplands of northeastern Louisiana.”
The album wasn’t a runaway hit at first, and even “Polk Salad Annie” was initially deemed a failure, but it gradually began to develop an audience and by the ‘70s it had become a fixture of Elvis Presley’s live shows. By that point, White had also released a follow-up album to Black And White called Continued that featured “Rainy Night In Georgia.” Brook Benton covered that song and took it to the top spot on Billboard’s soul charts in 1970.
Over the next few decades, White continued to regularly release new albums and go on tour, playing alongside artists like Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, and the Foo Fighters. In fact, after one appearance with the Foo Fighters on The Late Show, David Letterman told the crowd, “If I was this guy, you could all kiss my ass.”
Earlier this year, White released Bad Mouthin’, his final album. White says he always thought of himself as a blues musician, but Bad Mouthin’ was the first time he tried to release a proper blues record.