Ira Tucker 1925-2008

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Thursday 26th June 2008

Lead singer of The Dixie Hummingbirds dies aged 83

GOSPEL music patriarch Ira Tucker, lead singer of veteran group The Dixie Hummingbirds, died in Philadelphia on Tuesday, 24th June aged 83. Tucker was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina on 17th May 1925. At 13 years of age he approached James Davis who had started the group in Greenville, SC, which were to become The Dixie Hummingbirds. At their peak in the 1950s the group were one of gospel's most popular and innovative acts, using shouting lead parts and walking basslines in songs like "Thank You For One More Day", "Trouble In My Way", "Let's Go Out To The Program", "In The Morning" and "Bedside Of A Neighbor". The switch lead vocals of Tucker and James Walker made the group hugely influential as was Tucker's screams and gestures which were a major influence on mainstream acts like James Brown.

After a stream of singles (and later albums) on labels like Apollo, Gotham and, most successfully, Peacock The Dixie Hummingbirds eventually came to the attention of the white audience in the 1970s when they backed Paul Simon on his hit "Loves Me Like A Rock". The group then recorded the same tune themselves and won a Grammy. Today The Dixie Hummingbirds are gospel's longest surviving act. Their lengthy career was chronicled in the book Great God A'mighty!: The Dixie Hummingbirds by Jerry Zolten. Tucker died from heart failure after suffering two strokes. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, the former Louise Archie; his sisters Sundray Tucker (who sings and writes songs under the name Cindy Scott, and Lynda Laurence, a one-time member of the Supremes; his son Ira Jr; five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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