Mojo and other outlets report that Louisiana singer-songwriter Bobby Charles is dead at 71.
Charles was a prolific songwriter who provided material for Ray Charles, Etta James, Delbert McClinton, Kris Kristofferson, Joe Cocker and others, but was perhaps best known for a little youthful ditty recorded by Bill Haley in 1955–the immortal “See You Later Alligator.”
In the last few years, however, bearded hipsters across the Atlantic had started singing the praises of Charles' 1972 self-titled album for Bearsville. Bootleg copies were being passed around before Bobby Charles was recently re-released on CD. From Mojo's cool appreciation of this cult item:
If you ask anyone to run through the list of superstars who made an appearance at The Last Waltz in 1976, the name Bobby Charles is highly unlikely to emerge. But listen to the recording of The Band's last hurrah and you can hear Robbie Robertson step up the mic, determined to make sure everyone knows that a major talent, revered by every single one of the assembled musicians, is about to take the stage. “He's a great, great songwriter,” enthuses the guitarist seemingly unsatisfied with the crowd's response. “He wrote See Ya Later Alligator!” he then yelps, reemphasizing that the Louisiana native standing before them is truly worthy of their respect and cheers. With the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Dr John and Muddy Waters all waiting in the wings that night, the phrase “great, great songwriter” may have temporarily lost some of its potency, but Bobby Charles deserved the title as much as the rest of them. By the early '70s, the former Robert Charles Guidry had penned at least two r&b standards (See Ya Later Alligator and I Don't Know Why I Love You But I Do) but his solo debut – an album rooted in the slow-groove Cajun-country jams of the south – is his real triumph.
The rediscovery of Bobby Charles led to new sessions with Dr. John, which were due to be released next month. Unfortunately, Bobby won't be able to enjoy what are sure to be universal accolades.