Soul singer Jean Knight passed on November 22nd of natural causes at age 80. The New Orleans native became famous in 1971 with her hit single “Mr. Big Stuff.” Knight started her career in the ’60s singing with local bands. In 1965, she recorded a demo of Jackie Wilson’s “Stop Doggin Me Around,” which caught the attention of producer Huey Meaux, who signed her to a recording contract with the Jet Star/ Tribe record label. The venture was not successful, and Knight became a baker. Her career turned around in 1970 when songwriter Ralph Williams introduced her to producer Wardell Quezergue. In the spring of that year, Knight took a trip to Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, and recorded “Mr. Big Stuff.” The song was rejected by all the labels who heard it, and a producer at Stax Records eventually released the single in 1971. “Mr. Big Stuff” went double platinum and received a Grammy nomination, and Knight performed it on Soul Train. Knight would not have another big record again until 1981 when she recorded “You Got The Papers But I Got The Man,” which was a response to Richard “Dimples” Fields’ “She’s Got Papers On Me.” She also recorded a version of the zydeco smash “My Toot Toot” in 1981, which was a minor hit. In the ’90s, she founded the ComStar label so that she could record without any restrictions.
New generations of music fans are still being introduced to Jean Knight’s voice thanks to the numerous times “Mr. Big Stuff” has been sampled. Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, TLC, Heavy D & The Boyz, and Martha Wash are some of the artists who have interpolated and covered Knight’s signature song. She performed the song on the PBS special Soul Comes Home in 2003, and in 2007, she was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame.