The Americana Music Association has named Irma Thomas as its 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for Performance. The honor will be presented to Thomas at the 17th annual Americana Honors & Awards, which will take place Wednesday, September 12 at Nashville’s historically cool Ryman Auditorium.
Widely celebrated as one of New Orleans’ most beloved entertainers, this eight-time Blues Music Award-winning legend has been effortlessly captivating audiences on and off stage for generations with her humbling charm and unmistakable golden voice: a rich, warm tone that instantly strikes any listener as familiar yet ethereal. Thomas’ impressive body of work — which includes 1960s staples “It’s Raining” and “Wish Someone Would Care” — has set a standard among her contemporaries, earning admiration from the late Otis Redding, who reinterpreted her song “Ruler of My Heart” as “Pain in My Heart,” and even The Rolling Stones, whose almost note-for-note cover of “Time Is On My Side” landed them their first top ten hit in America.
Over a career spanning almost six decades, Thomas has eroded the boundaries of soul music. From the gospel-informed “Walk Around Heaven” (1993) to the stripped-down “Simply Grand,” (2008) the Louisiana native has married Southern-flavored R&B with classic blues and soul for a timeless sound that does not conform to a single genre, while also placing a distinctive sonic fingerprint on every project she has laid her hands on.
“We are beyond elated to present this award to Ms. Thomas at this year’s ceremony,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association®. “Her undeniable charisma and grace have been evidenced by a remarkable career, and we are humbled to honor her enduring legacy.”
Thomas’ indisputable showmanship is just as much a testament to her character offstage as it is onstage. Her critically acclaimed comeback album “After the Rain” (2006) was born out of pure resilience — recorded merely weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastatingly destroyed her Louisiana home and local nightclub, The Lion’s Den, which she had opened with her husband and manager Emile Jackson. In the wake of this tragedy, she used what remained as building blocks for an album that ended up being an emotional career milestone with her first GRAMMY® win. This momentous occasion followed two previous nominations for her live album “Simply the Best” (1991) and the collaborative “Sing It!” (1998) with blues mavens Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson. She then garnered a fourth nomination for the piano-laden “Simply Grand.”
The reigning “Soul Queen of New Orleans” also values the importance of giving back and investing in today’s youth. After graduating from her home state’s Delgado College at 61, Thomas partnered with the school to establish the Irma Thomas Wise Women Center, which counsels young men and women with guidance on furthering their educations and careers. The Blues Hall of Fame member provides encouragement to these students while sharing her own struggles.
Irma Thomas will be presented with this year's Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance during the Americana Music Association's® 17th annual Americana Honors & Awards, which includes six member-voted annual awards as well as several top Lifetime Achievement honors.
This announcement follows the recent unveiling of 2018 Americana Trailblazer Award recipient k.d.lang, and Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist honoree Buddy Guy. This year’s nominees include Artist of the Year contenders Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, Margo Price and John Prine — click here for a full list of this year’s nominations. The prestigious ceremony celebrates legendary mainstays and trailblazing newcomers as the hallmark of AMERICANAFEST® week, taking place September 11-16 in Nashville, TN.
Since its inception in 1999, the mission of the Americana Music Association® has been to advocate for the authentic voice of American roots music around the world. In recent years, the association's unwavering dedication to artist advocacy has been evidenced by several milestones, including the addition of the Best Americana Album GRAMMY® category by the Recording Academy and Billboard’s Americana/Folk Albums Chart, as well as the inclusion of the musical term, Amer·i·ca·na, to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
For more information on the association or to purchase tickets for this year's Americana Honors & Awards and passes to AMERICANAFEST®, please visit americanamusic.org.