Ice melts to water and gets hot

I've been busy, but there's no excuse for not noting before now that Mable John passed away late last month. She was 91 years old.

John was a blues singer who came to prominence in the 1960s. Although eclipsed in fame by her contemporaries, some of whom became household names, she had a voice that had as much soul as anyone else's walking on the earth. Many people know her hit, "You Good Thing (Is About to End)," which Bonnie Raitt, Lou Rawls, and many others have covered. But John followed that up with a dozen or so tracks that are equally worthy of everyone's attention.

I first discovered her 30-some-odd years ago when I invested in the first big box set of singles from the vaults of the famed Stax/Volt record label. That thing is a treasure chest of the Memphis soul sounds of the '60s. But nothing in there tugs at the heart strings any harder than Mable John's contributions did. The songs, written by David Porter and Isaac Hayes, called for her to venture into some dark territory, and she wasn't afraid to go. She definitely had the goods, whether she broke out into the mainstream or not.

Her brother was Little Willie John, another blues and soul singer of amazing talent. His life ended in tragedy, but Mable hung in there. After working as a solo act for a while, she became one of the backup singers for Ray Charles. She retired from the music biz and became a pastor in L.A. in the late '70s.

It's often said that the singer is gone, but the recordings live on. That's certainly the case here. They get better with age. But for now, so long, "Able Mable."