News

Tony Joe White, 'Polk Salad Annie' Songwriter and Icon of Southern Music, Dead at 75

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Tony Joe White, the singer-songwriter who penned classic songs such as "Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia," among many others, has died at the age of 75. His family told The Tennessean White died at his home in Liepers Fork, Tenn. on Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 24) of a heart attack.

"He wasn't ill at all," his son, Jody White, told The Tennessean. "He just had a heart attack. ... There was no pain or suffering."

The singer and songwriter known for his deep voice and blending blues, country and rock in what came to be known as "swamp rock," was born on July 23, 1943 in Louisiana.

In 2017, White told The Tennessean that blues legend Lightin' Hopkins inspired him to learn to play music.

White frequently credited "Ode to Billie Joe," written and performed by Bobbie Gentry, as the song that made him want to start writing. Like Gentry, White would go on to showcase southern regions and southern folks in his music.

His song "Polk Salad Annie," a tune about a Louisiana girl and her family, was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Ala. and  released in 1968. The song went on to become a top 10 hit for White in 1969 and was later recorded by Elvis Presley.

White's song "Rainy Night in Georgia" was made popular by Brook Benton in 1970. Tina Turner also had two hits with the White-penned "Steamy Windows" and "Undercover Agent for the Blues."

White made his Grand Ole Opry debut just last month, on Sept. 28.

White is survived by his wife, Leann; three children, Michelle, Jim Bob and Jody; and several grandchildren.

recommended for you

Tony Joe White, 'Polk Salad Annie' Songwriter and Icon of Southern Music, Dead at 75