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Coolidge, Rita (1st May 1945-Present)

She is a singer born Rita Faye Coolidge and nicknamed “Delta Lady”, born in Lafayette, Tennessee, to a family from Native American Cherokee descent where her father was a minister.

She began singing in her father’s church and took her further education in art, although still singing, at Florida State University. After graduation she went to Memphis and sang jingles for commercials, either alone or with her sister Priscilla, and then she became a backing singer for Delaney & Bonnie in their tour band.

Active in the music industry since the late 1960s she was a backing singer for Eric Clapton and others, and became recognised on the Joe Cocker album Mad Dogs and Englishmen for her performance on the track “Superstar”. Quickly gaining attention, Leon Russell wrote “Delta Lady” for her, which he recorded in 1969 and released on his 1970 album Leon Russell. It was also a Top 10 hit for Joe Cocker in the UK in 1969 and sung by him at Woodstock.

Known to have had romances with both Stephen Stills and Graham Nash in the late 1960s/early 1970s, it has been stated this was one of the causes behind the 1970 split of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. David Crosby wrote the song “Cowboy Movie” about it and Stephen Stills wrote the songs “The Raven”, “Cherokee” and “Sugar Babe” about her as well as naming a side of his 1972 Manassas for her.

At the turn of the 1970s she met the singer Kris Kristofferson who became her husband in 1973 (they would divorce in 1980) and father of her daughter Casey. Together they became an extremely successful Grammy Award winning duo releasing several albums.

Although having entered the charts on several occasions from 1973 onwards, the latter half of the 1970s saw her achieving far more success than in earlier years, with covers of songs that included “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher”, “Words ” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do”.

In the world of movies and television she was Maria in the 1973 Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, featured as the voice of Melissa Raccoon in the shows The Christmas Raccoons and The Raccoons on Ice in 1980 and 1981, sang the theme songs for 1983’s Octopussy, “All Time High”, and 1984’s Splash, “Love Came For Me”, and in 2002 appeared as the character Mrs. Phelps in Changing Hearts.

In 1982 she struck up a romance with the drummer Thom Mooney who would appear with her on future albums and recordings by other artists. Towards the end of the 1990s she founded the group Walela; Cherokee for hummingbird; with her sister and niece and subsequently released albums in 1997 and 2000.  Her sister and her husband, Mike Seibert, were found dead in a possible murder-suicide in 2014.

Her work throughout the course of her career has seen her performing with a myriad of artists such as Harry Chapin, Michel Colombier, Rupert Holmes, Jim Horn, David Lasley, Arnold McCuller, Aaron Neville, Roy Orbison, Tim Rice, Johnny Rivers, Robbie Robertson, Timothy B. Schmit, Carly Simon , Billy Swan and Roger Waters to name a few.

Albums she may be found on are many and a selection includes her own Anytime…Anywhere, Inside the Fire, The Lady’s Not For Sale and Satisfied, Full Moon and Breakaway with Kris Kristofferson and also Hot Water by Jimmy Buffett , Somethin’ ‘Bout You Baby I Like by Glen Campbell , Crossroads by Eric Clapton, Replay by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Duets by Tom Jones, Songs for Beginners by Graham Nash, Moments by Boz Scaggs and the soundtrack of Coast to Coast and a Night in Heaven. The 2000s saw her continuing to be busy with the release of her Delta Lady – The Rita Coolidge Anthology and And So Is Love as well as touring the UK with Kenny Rogers and Don Williams.

In 2016 she published her Delta Lady: A Memoir and as a painter she has had her work exhibited.

Here she is singing the blues….