Lee Dorsey’s better known work is without a doubt the material he released for the Amy label in the 60’s. Everybody knows his “Working In a Coalmine,” that much is for sure. I myself love his early 60’s “Ya Ya” and the 1965 single “Get Out Of My Life, Woman.” But that was all that sprang to mind when I heard his name — which is, I admit it, a crying shame.
Lee Dorsey was born in New Orleans on christmas eve 1924 but moved to Portland, Oregon as a child. Before meeting Allen Toussaint, who became his producer and had him signed to the Fury label, Lee had already served in the US Navy and, as Kid Chocolate, had established a successful career in boxing.
“Ya Ya,” his first recording, went straight to # 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. As so often in music history, the label folded, and Lee, a golden disc in the pocket, returned to his mundane job as an auto mechanic.
When Allen Toussaint began to work with him again on the Amy label, Lee had a string of Hot 100 songs, including “Working In The Coal Mine” in 1966, his second top ten title.
Toussaint and Dorsey continued their collaboration and released two more albums. “Yes We Can” for the Polydor label in 1970 and “Night People” in 1978. These albums have been reissued on one disc by the Australian Raven label.
The backing band, by the way, on these albums was The Meters.
Lee Dorsey died at age 61 in 1986 in New Orleans.