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|Gonna Leave You||Big Mama Thornton||08:56|
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Blues artist Big Mama Thornton was born Willie Mae Thornton in Ariton, Alabama in 1926. By the time she was a teenager the regard in the deep south towards civil rights made it a tough environment for any African American performer, especially a female, but Thornton's talent carried her through and she eventually relocated to Texas in 1948 to pursue her ambitions.
A measure of her stature as a singer can be gauged by both Janis Joplin and Elvis Presley citing her as having a significant effect on their own vocal styles. Her first hit was a version of Leiber and Stoller's 'Hound Dog' which she recorded in 1952. The track went to number one in the R&B Charts eventually selling over two million copies. As with many other performers of the day who didn't write their own material Thornton saw very little of the profits from her hit record. She did however go on to write her own songs and in 1967 released 'Ball & Chain' which was to become a classic after Janis Joplin recorded her version of the track.
In the 1970s Thornton's career began to decline due to her dependency on alcohol and her health suffered as a result. She died at the age of 57 in 1984.