Jimmy Reed (September 6, 1925 - August 29, 1976) was a highly acclaimed and influential blues singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. With his easy-going, accessible vocal delivery and distinctive electric blues guitar and harmonica self-accompaniment, he became one of the most popular blues singers of the 1950s and 1960s. His performance style has been imitated by countless musicians covering all the main popular music genres, and his hits have become beloved blues standards.
Born Mathis James Reed in Dunleith, Mississippi, he grew up learning to play the harmonica and guitar from his childhood friend and, later, fellow blues musician Eddie Taylor. Reed moved to Chicago in 1943 to pursue a music career but was drafted into the US Navy where he served for two years in World War II. He then returned home briefly to marry his girlfriend Mary (a.k.a. "Mama Reed," who later provided backup vocals on many of his recordings) before moving to Gary, Indiana, where he worked at a meat packing plant while breaking into the blues music scene around Gary and nearby Chicago. By the early 1950s, he was performing and recording with such bands as The Gary Kings with John Brim and on the streets with Willie Joe Duncan. Soon after Vee-Jay's founding in 1953, Reed signed on with the newly-established record label where he began performing again with Eddie Taylor.
Reed debuted on the R&B charts in 1955 with "You Don't Have To Go," which became a Top 10 hit. This was followed by a long string of hits on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts through the late 1960s that also included "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" (1956), "You've Got Me Dizzy" (1956), "Honest I Do" (1957), "The Sun Is Shining" (1957), "Baby What You Want Me To Do" (1960), "Found Love" (1960), "Hush-Hush" (1960), "Big Boss Man" (1961), "Bright Lights Big City" (1961), and "Shame, Shame, Shame" (1963). A prolific songwriter, his many songs have been covered over the years by such top bands and artists as The Animals, The Grateful Dead, Etta James, The Steve Miller Band, Van Morrison (Them), Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and Neil Young.
Reed died of respiratory failure in 1976 just eight days short of his 51st birthday after years of battling epilepsy and alcoholism. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
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- Baby What You Want Me To Do 1960
(This song later also became a hit for Etta James (1964).)
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