‘Mr. Big Stuff’ singer Jean Knight dead at 80

‘Mr. Big Stuff’ singer Jean Knight dead at 80

Jean Knight

Jean Knight, the iconic R&B singer known for her 1971 smash hit “Mr. Big Stuff,” has died. She was 80.

Her publicist shared that Knight died of natural causes, TMZ confirmed.

Knights’ family noted the “indelible mark she left on the world” in a statement detailing her historic run in the music industry.

“Jean Knight’s legacy is not just a musical one; it is a testament to the enduring love between an artist, her hometown, and the fans who adored her,” the family statement read.

“As we bid farewell to this iconic soulstress, New Orleans and her global fan base join together in gratitude for the indelible mark she left on the world.”

The New Orleans native began her career as a singer after graduating high school, singing with bands at her cousin’s bar in the early 1960s.

Knight gained national success with the release of her 1971 single “Mr. Big Stuff.”
Michael Ochs Archives

Knight — born Jean Caliste before changing her last name — released her first song, “Stop Doggin’ Me Around,” in 1965, landing a recording contract with Jet Star/Tribe record labels while working as a baker.

Her big break would begin to form when she linked with songwriter Ralph Williams and began working with record producer Wardell Quezergue in 1970.

Still working as a baker, Knight would record her hit song “Mr. Big Stuff” in Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi.

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A year after its release, Stax Records picked up the funk-fueled hit and skyrocketed her to stardom.

Knight singing “Mr. Big Stuff” on the musical variety television show Soul Train on Dec. 11, 1971.
Soul Train / WCIU-TV

The song would dominate the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Soul Singles chart for five weeks and become one of the largest-selling singles released by the label.

In total, her single sold more than three million copies, earning Knight both gold and platinum records, according to the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

She would also be nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance in the Female category, losing to Aretha Franklin in 1972.

“Mr. Big Stuff” also appeared on the album of the same name.

Knight performs on stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana on April 27, 1986.
Knight performs during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Music Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 26, 2013, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Getty Images

“‘Mr. Big Stuff’ — it was just so universal. People remember it. And look, so many people covered it. But nobody did it like Jean,” Bernie Cyrus, former Louisiana Music Commission executive director, told Rolling Stone.

The “Don’t Talk about Jody” singer left Stax in 1973 and continued to record tracks for several labels.

She later signed with the Soulin’ label in 1981 and by 1985 was touring regularly, while still releasing hits like “You Got the Papers but I Got the Man” and a cover of Rockin’ Sydney’s zydeco song “My Toot Toot.”

Knight returned to her old label’s museum grand opening to perform “Mr. Big Stuff” for the PBS special “Soul Comes Home” in 2003.

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In 2007, she was inducted into the Louisiana Music Commission Hall of Fame.

Her 1990 song “Do Me” appeared in the 2007 comedy “Superbad.”

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