Legendary Celebrity Artist Dies at 80

(UnitedHeadlines.com) – On Nov. 22, soul singer Jean Knight, 80, died of natural causes in Tampa, Florida, where she had been living with her son.

Knight was born Jean Caliste in New Orleans in 1943. After she graduated from Joseph S. Clark High School, she began singing in a New Orleans bar. She went on to record her 1971 “Mr. Big Stuff.” On Billboard’s R&B chart, the song reached No. 1. It also reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 pop chart. In 1972, Knight was nominated for a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Knight recorded several more albums, which included songs such as “(Don’t Mess With) My Toot Toot” and “Bill.” She went on to form her own label, Comstar. Knight toured for years and performed on large festival stages in New Orleans and in smaller venues in the French Quarter. She also graduated from nursing school in the 1980s, working as a nurse while she continued her singing career.

Over the decades, “Mr. Big Stuff” was featured in various places, such as the Oreo Big Stuff cookie commercial in the 1980s. In 1987, rapper Heavy D created his own hit version of “Mr. Big Stuff.” Recordings that sampled the song included “Switch” by TLC, “AM Radio” by Everclear, “Johnny Ryall” by the Beastie Boys and “Who Do We Think We Are.” by John Legend

Knight was Stax Records’ top-selling female artist, according to a statement from Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

Among family and friends, Knight was a mother and grandmother who loved to cook Creole dishes and celebrate Mardi Gras. In a statement, her family said her “legacy is not just a musical one.” The family said Knight’s life and work were “a testament to the enduring love between an artist,” her fans, and her hometown.

The New Orleans Jazz Fest and Essence Music Festival Executive Director Reginald Toussaint stated Knight was “genuinely a nice person with a gentle spirit.” She is survived by her son, Dr. Emile Commedore, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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