Tony Joe White, who wrote Brook Benton's '70s classic "Rainy Night in Georgia" and took his own "Polk Salad Annie to the Top 10, died Wednesday at 75.
Over a 50-year career, White explored a wide range of musical styles from blues, rock and R&B, to country and Americana. The proof was in the diversity of artists who recorded his material: Elvis Presley, Tina Turner, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Joe Cocker, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Ray Charles.
In a 2016 program at the Grammy Museum in L.A., Tony Joe White discussed the song that inspired him to become a composer:
“I heard a song on the radio called “Ode to Billy Joe.” When I heard that I said, “How real can you get, man?’ I AM Billy Joe, man. I been in them fields. I’ve been in them rivers. So I said, ‘If I ever try to write anything it’s gonna be really real.’ So I knew about ‘Polk Salad’ from my mother and I knew about “Rainy Nights in Georgia ‘cause I drove a dump truck through Marrietta, Georgia when I was 18 and got out of high school.”