Irma Thomas

Ruler of My Heart

Song Review by

Like some other early Irma Thomas singles, "Ruler of My Heart" didn't make the national charts, but endures as a relatively well-known classic to serious soul fans in general, and to Louisiana listeners in particular. Thomas is a master of the plaintive ballad, and they don't get much more affecting and melodic than "Ruler of My Heart," written by producer Allen Toussaint under the pseudonym of Naomi Neville. "Ruler of My Heart" starts with a windblown burst of eerie descending female harmonies and a staccato piano trill. The verse, reflecting Toussaint's wide musical schooling, is R&B but more sophisticated musically than most '60s R&B, descending dramatically into a lower key but rising back to the original one so deftly it almost escapes notice. The most memorable part of the song, though, is when the song goes into a more minor mode and gets tenser in the bridge, where Thomas offers a restrained plea to her lover to come back. The backing is impeccable, not too elaborate, but with several satisfying layers, in the high backing harmonies; the almost classically grand piano touches; and the horns that pump away almost subliminally in the bridge. The best part of Thomas's vocal might be the last, when she sensually and wordlessly hums the main melody over the fadeout. "Ruler of My Heart" was reworked, with more bluster and different lyrics, into "Pain in My Heart" by Otis Redding, which became a big R&B hit for him and was covered by the Rolling Stones in the mid-1960s.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Soul Queen of New Orleans 1978 Mardi Gras Records / Mardi Gras 2:25
No Image 1981 Charly Records
It Will Stand (The Soul of New Orleans, Vol. 2) 1987
Various Artists
Charly Records
Ruler of Hearts 1989 Charly Records
No Image 1989
Various Artists
Charly Records 2:35
The Rapture [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 1991 Aryavarta Kumar / Rapture LLC 0:00
Time Is on My Side: The Best of Irma Thomas, Vol. 1 1992 EMI Music Distribution
The Best of Louisiana Music [Mardi Gras 1993] 1993
Various Artists
Mardi Gras Records / Mardi Gras 2:35
The Minit Records Story 1994
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution / Capitol 0:00
The Minit/Instant Story 1996
Various Artists
Charly Records 2:43
Sweet Soul Queen of New Orleans: The Irma Thomas Collection 1996 Razor & Tie 2:39
Crescent City Soul: The Sound of New Orleans 1996
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution / Capitol 2:36
This Is Soul, Vol. 2 [Charly] 1996
Various Artists
Charly Records 2:45
Time Is on My Side 1996 Kent 2:40
Great Voice of Soul [Rivie're Int'l] 1998
Various Artists
Riviere International Records
The Great Voice of Soul [Cleopatra] 1998
Various Artists
Cleopatra 2:45
Blues & Soul Bible 1998
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill
Greatest Soul Album of All Time [Dressed to Kill] 1999
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:45
The Great Soul Classics 1999
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:45
The Toussaint Touch 2000
Various Artists
RPM 2:45
Mega Soul 2001
Various Artists
Wagram Records 2:39
History of R&B [Simply the Best] 2001
Various Artists
Simply The Best (Netherlands) 2:36
Soul Love, Vol. 2 [Dressed to Kill] 2001
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:45
Saturday Night Fish Fry: New Orleans Funk and Soul 2001
Various Artists
Soul Jazz 2:35
Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet: 20 Classic Allen Toussaint Productions for Minit... 2002 Capitol / EMI Records 2:39
Soul: Sexual Healing 2002 Brilliant / Digimode Entertainment 2:42
Let the Good Times Roll, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Liberty / Capitol 2:40
The Instant and Minit Story (The Definitive History - From the Golden Age of New Orleans R&B) 2005
Various Artists
Charly Records / Artistry / Snapper 2:44
A Soul Awakening: From Sacred to Secular
Various Artists
History of Soul Records 2:38
Charlie Gillett's Radio Picks: Honky Tonk, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Ace 2:39
This Is England '86
Various Artists
Universal 2:46