Image: Soul Train. Distributed by Don Cornelius Productions.
Jean Knight, a powerful Funk and Soul singer of the '70s and '80s, has passed away.
A statement from the musician's publicist revealed that Knight died of natural causes on Wednesday, November 22. The singer is mainly known for her hit 1971 song "Mr. Big Stuff," which peaked at no. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100 and no.1 on Billboard's Hot R&B chart. The single was the most popular release from Knight's album of the same name.
Before her success, Knight's journey to stardom was filled with trials and tribulations that she used to her advantage. Born Jean Caliste on January 26, 1943, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the talented artist began singing at her cousin's bar after graduating high school. Knight caught the attention of various bands, and in 1965, she recorded a cover of Jackie Wilson's song "Stop Doggin' Me Around." The recording garnered attention, eventually leading to a contract with Jet Star/Tribe.
After recording four singles and only becoming known locally, Knight decided to work as a baker since her music career wasn't moving in the direction she wanted it to. Things changed in the 1970s when she met songwriter Ralph Williams, who connected her to a record producer. Knight recorded "Mr. Big Stuff" during a recording session in Mississippi, but after being shopped around, labels rejected it. A producer at Stax Records decided to give it a chance, and it became a hit.
The song garnered a Grammy nomination, sold two million copies and skyrocketed Knight's career. The line, "Mr. Big stuff, who do you think you are?" became popular, not just in the music industry, but an everyday phrase.
She also had minor chart hits and released four additional albums.
Knight was 80.