Blues legend Big Mama Thornton was born in Ariton, Alabama on December 11, 1926. Known for her powerful voice and sexually explicit lyrics, Thornton was the original performer of the hit song “Hound Dog,” commonly associated with Elvis Presley, and “Ball and Chain,” covered by Janis Joplin. She died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California, on July 25, 1984.Thornton was known for her tough demeanor as well as her stocky frame and powerful voice. She dressed in men’s clothing and drank heavily throughout her adult life. Her drinking may have contributed to her death of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California, on July 25, 1984. She was 57 years old. Her funeral was attended by many blues greats and officiated by her old Peacock Records collaborator, Johnny Otis, who had since been ordained as a minister.
In 1984, Thornton was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Her song “Ball and Chain” appears in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.”