Saturday, June 22, 2024

RIP R&B Queen Jean Knight, Her Bouncy New Orleans Hit “Mr. Big Stuff” Lives On 50 Years Later as a Radio Standout


Jean Knight had one big hit, but boy, what a hit.

“Mr. Big Stuff” was a humongous radio smash in the summer of 1971. You couldn’t get away from it and you didn’t want to. Jean sang it with such personality, it was the kind of single you never get tired of hearing. It earned her a Grammy nomination, too. And to this day, “Mr. Big Stuff” is heard over and over again.

“Mr. Big Stuff” was part of the revitalized Stax Records of the early 70s. Interestingly, though, it was recorded at the nearby Jackson, Mississippi record label, Malaco. But as her bio says, they didn’t know what to do with it. (Right after losing “Mr. Big Stuff,” Malaco was smart to jump on the bandwagon for Denise LaSalle, and hits with her.) It was recorded in the same session as King Floyd’s hit, “Groove Me.”

Jean was paid once to record the song. But because she didn’t write it, she received no royalties beyond record sales– if she even got those. When you hear her voice over those bouncy New Orleans horns, remember that it’s coming to you for free.

So sorry to hear that Jean has passed at age 80. She’s part of R&B history. Condolences to her family and friends.

Here’s her official bio.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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