She Had a Day Job as a Baker. Then Came 'Mr. Big Stuff'

Jean Knight, singer behind 1971 smash hit, is dead at 80
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2023 8:21 AM CST

The name Jean Knight might not qualify as being of the household variety, but you've surely heard her big song somewhere: "Mr. Big Stuff." Knight—whose defiant 1971 hit about a womanizer "remains a gloriously spiky gem of the early 70s soul and funk scene," per the Guardian—has died at age 80, reports People. The song spent five weeks atop the R&B charts and reached No. 2 on the pop charts upon its release, per Rolling Stone. Since then, it's been covered, sampled, and tucked into myriad movies and ads. "It was just so universal," says longtime friend Bernie Cyrus. "People remember it. And look, so many people covered it. But nobody did it like Jean."

Knight, a native of New Orleans, began her singing career in the mid-1960s straight out of high school, but was still supplementing her income as a baker until she put out her big hit on Stax Records with producer Wardell Quezergue. Though she never again had a hit quite as big, Knight maintained a well-regarded singing career for decades. (She also had a minor hit with "My Toot Toot" in the 1980s.) "'Mr Big Stuff' is better to me now than 31 years ago," she said in 2002, referring to the royalties, per the Guardian. "All I have to do is sit at home and wait for the mailman." Knight died of natural causes, according to TMZ. (Read other notable obituaries.)

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