By Stephen CarlickSinger-songwriter Booby Charles died yesterday (January 14) in his Abbeville, LA home at the age of 71. He had suffered from diabetes and had been in remission from kidney cancer, according to his publicist.
The musician, born Robert Charles Guidry, was best known for writing hit songs for the likes of Fats Domino and Bill Haley & His Comets in the late '50s.
Born and raised in Abbeville, where he grew up on Southern-influenced R&B, country and cajun music, Charles was a big part of the "swamp pop" music scene of the '50s. Some of his biggest hits were "(I Don't Know Why I Love You) But I Do" (composed with Clarence "Frogman" Henry) and "See you later, Alligator," made famous later by Bill Haley. In 1976, he was invited to play with the Band at their farewell concert, which was documented in the film The Last Waltz.
In press throughout his career, Charles was often referred to as black, rather than white, for his musical style, vocal style and heritage. His songs have been covered by the likes of Joe Cocker, Delbert McClinton, Lou Rawls, Ray Charles, Tom Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Etta James, Junior Wells, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Bo Diddley, among others. He was inducted into the Louisiana Music of Fame in September 2007.
Charles spent the last few years of his life battling diabetes and kidney cancer, though the exact cause of death has yet to be determined. Charles and New Orleans singer-songwriter Dr. John recently finished putting together an album of new studio recordings entitled Timeless. It's tentatively due for release sometime next month.