Joe Tex was one of the most influential soul singers of the 1960s and 1970s, known for his witty and humorous lyrics, his energetic stage presence, and his distinctive style of Southern soul that blended funk, country, gospel, and rhythm and blues. He had several hit songs, such as “Hold What You’ve Got”, “Skinny Legs and All”, “I Gotcha”, and “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)”. He was also a pioneer of rap music, as he often spoke or rapped over his songs, using catchy phrases and rhymes. He was nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame six times, most recently in 2017.
But how did Joe Tex die? What was the cause of his death? And what legacy did he leave behind? In this article, we will explore the life and death of Joe Tex, and pay tribute to his musical contributions.
Early Life and Career
Joe Tex was born Joseph Arrington Jr. in Rogers, Texas, in 1935. He grew up in Baytown, Texas, where he sang in a Pentecostal church choir and played baritone saxophone in the high school band. He was inspired by gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke, as well as by rhythm and blues artists like Little Richard and Ray Charles. He entered several talent shows, and won a trip to New York City after winning a contest in Houston. There, he performed at the Apollo Theater, where he won four times in a row. He was discovered by Henry Glover, who signed him to King Records in 1955.
However, his early recordings for King Records were not successful. He claimed that he sold the rights to the song “Fever” to King Records staff to pay his rent, but the songwriters Otis Blackwell and Joe Cooley disputed his claim. The song became a hit for Little Willie John in 1956, and later for Peggy Lee in 1958. Tex wrote an answer song called “Pneumonia”, but it did not chart either. He moved to Ace Records in 1958, where he continued to record without much success. He also developed his stage persona, using microphone tricks and dance moves that were later copied by James Brown. He had a feud with Brown over their similarities, as well as over a woman named Bea Ford, who was Brown’s girlfriend and Tex’s ex-wife.
Breakthrough and Success
Tex’s breakthrough came in 1964, when he signed with Dial Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. He recorded his first hit song, “Hold What You’ve Got”, at the Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The song was a soulful ballad that showcased Tex’s warm and expressive voice. It reached number one on the R&B chart and number five on the pop chart in 1965. It was followed by more hits, such as “A Sweet Woman Like You”, “The Love You Save”, “S.Y.S.L.J.F.M. (The Letter Song)”, and “Show Me”. Tex also became known for his humorous and socially conscious songs, such as “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show”, “I Believe I’m Gonna Make It”, “Men Are Gettin’ Scarce”, and “Buying a Book”. He often addressed topics like love, marriage, family, war, poverty, and racism in his songs.
Tex’s biggest hit was “Skinny Legs and All”, from his live album Live and Lively in 1967. The song was a funky and funny tune that featured Tex rapping over a horn-driven groove. It reached number two on the R&B chart and number 10 on the pop chart. It also influenced many rap artists who later sampled or covered it, such as Sir Mix-a-Lot, De La Soul, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg. Tex also had other successful songs in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as “I’ll Never Do You Wrong”, “A Woman Sees a Hard Time (When Her Man Is Gone)”, “I Want to (Do Everything for You)”, “You’re Right Ray Charles”, “You Got What It Takes”, “You Said a Bad Word”, and “Give the Baby Anything the Baby Wants”.
Conversion to Islam and Later Years
In 1972, Tex converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Hazziez. He also took a break from music for several years to focus on his faith. He returned to recording in 1975 with the album Have You Ever. His biggest comeback hit was “I Gotcha” in 1972, a funky song that featured Tex saying “I gotcha!” repeatedly as he chased a woman who had rejected him. The song was controversial for its perceived sexual aggression, but it was also popular for its catchy hook and groove. It reached number one on the R&B chart and number two on the pop chart. It was also sampled by many rap artists, such as Biz Markie, EPMD, Public Enemy, and N.W.A.
Tex’s last major hit was “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)” in 1977, a disco song that poked fun at the dance craze of the bump. The song reached number two on the R&B chart and number 12 on the pop chart. It was also covered by artists like The Fat Boys, Weird Al Yankovic, and Joe Walsh. Tex continued to record and perform until his death in 1982. He also collaborated with other soul singers, such as Wilson Pickett, Ben E. King, and Don Covay, as part of the Soul Clan in 1980.
Death and Legacy
Tex died of a heart attack at his home in Navasota, Texas, on August 13, 1982. He was 47 years old. He was buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Beaumont, Texas. He left behind a wife, Belilah Martez Hazziez, and ten children from various relationships. He also left behind a legacy of music that influenced many genres and artists, especially rap and hip-hop. He was one of the first singers to use spoken word and rap techniques in his songs, and he also used catchy phrases and rhymes that became part of the rap lexicon. He was praised by rap legends like Chuck D, Ice-T, KRS-One, and Jay-Z for his contributions to the art form. He was also admired by other soul singers, such as Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and Al Green for his vocal skills and style.
Joe Tex was a soul singer who made history with his music. He was a pioneer of rap music, a master of funk music, and a storyteller of soul music. He was a versatile and charismatic performer who entertained audiences with his humor and energy. He was a legend who left an indelible mark on the music industry and culture. He was Joe Tex, and he will always be remembered.