Joe Simon, a Grammy-winning R&B singer whose hits included “The Chokin ‘Kind” from 1969 and “Power of Love” from 1972 and was sampled in “So Fresh, So Clean” by OutKast and other hip-hop classics, died Monday (Dec. 13) in his longtime hometown near Chicago. He was 85 years old.

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Born in Simmesport, Louisiana, Simon hated picking cotton and moved to Los Angeles to become a singer, spending his early years homeless and living in a chicken coop. With nothing to do at night, he wrote 20 to 30 songs a day and developed his voice to the point that a label owner paid him $ 1,100 to record four songs written by others. He brought in local musicians, including future funk greats Sly Stone and Larry Graham, to perform on 1964’s “My Adorable One”, which became Simon’s groundbreaking hit.

“I don’t want to rush my career,” said Simon Billboard in 1968. “I’m going to take my time, because the rushing artist forgets a lot of things.

Nonetheless, Simon’s career evolved rapidly, as he landed three No. 1 and 14 top 10s on what is now known as the Hot R & B / Hip-Hop Songs chart, and a better R&B, Male Grammy vocal performance for “The Chokin ‘Kind”. He collaborated with Philly Sound hitmakers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff for 1971’s “Drowning In the Sea of ​​Love,” then created the 1973’s theme. Cleopatra Jones. During his peak period, Simon launched his own independent labels, Spring and Posse, signing funk stars such as Millie Jackson and Fatback Band.

He was known as “The Mouth of the South”, compared to Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and, perhaps more aptly, Jackie Wilson. “He had a very different and distinct voice,” says his grandson, David Simon, a professional basketball player who toured with Simon towards the end of his R&B career in the ’80s. “You can certainly choose his. voice among any crowd. “

Early in his touring career, Simon performed at the Apollo Theater in New York City, where an employee told him he would not represent anything. “I went from cotton field to chicken coop to rhythm and blues superstar – you can’t tell me I won’t be anything,” Simon said in his 2016 documentary, Looking back with Joe Simon.

At the Apollo, he agrees to let a young soul group, the Jackson 5s, appear on the same poster. this kid a dwarf or not? “” Simon told J. Randy Taraborrelli in his biography of Jackson Magic, madness, the whole story 1958-2009. “Hey man, stop looking at me, okay?” ” [Jackson] said.”

Despite all his success, Simon shied away from R&B because, he said in the documentary, “To sing rhythm and blues you had to act like a jerk. Everyone there was drugged. In 1981 Jet The magazine said Simon, with his earrings and wigs on stage, “as famous for his bizarre outfit as he is for his hits,” and reported that he was moving towards a more conservative suit-and-tie image.

In 1983 he gave up what he called “world music,” according to his grandson, to become an ordained minister, working as a traveling pastor, beginning with a sermon in front of 4,000 people at the Rapides Coliseum near New Brunswick. Orleans. He made the switch after a dramatic moment on stage in front of 10,000 fans when he forgot the words to the pop and R&B hits he had been singing for 25 years: sit down. I want you to know that I can’t sing these songs tonight…. I want everyone to go to the front door of the office and get your money. Because I go to church. And 10,000 people said, “Hallelujah!

Yet Simon’s secular successes and influence continue to show up around the world – David Simon spotted one of his grandfather’s old posters in the 1999 movie Denzel Washington. Hurricane. “I travel overseas and when I’m in Asia we go to karaoke bars and they have his music in karaoke books,” says the 39-year-old athlete. “It really spread everywhere. “