Wednesday, June 03, 2009

R.I.P Koko Taylor

Shit. Another great now on the wrong side of the grass.

From the AP:

CHICAGO (AP) — Koko Taylor, a sharecropper's daughter
whose regal bearing and powerful voice earned her the
sobriquet "Queen of the Blues," has died after
complications from surgery. She was 80.

Taylor died Wednesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital
about two weeks after surgery for a gastrointestinal
bleed, said Marc Lipkin, director of publicity for her
record label, Alligator Records, which made the
announcement.

Taylor's career stretched more than five decades. While
she did not have widespread mainstream success, she was
revered and beloved by blues aficionados, and earned
worldwide acclaim for her work, which including the
best-selling song "Wang Dang Doodle" and tunes such as
"What Kind of Man is This" and "I Got What It Takes."

Taylor appeared on national television numerous times,
and was the subject of a PBS documentary and had a small
part in director David Lynch's "Wild at Heart."

In the course of her career, Taylor was nominated seven
times for Grammy awards and won in 1984.

Born Cora Walton just outside Memphis, Tenn., Taylor
said her dream to become a blues singer was nurtured in
the cotton fields outside her family's sharecropper shack.

"I used to listen to the radio, and when I was about 18
years old, B.B. King was a disc jockey and he had a radio
program, 15 minutes a day, over in West Memphis, Arkansas
and he would play the blues," she said in a 1990 interview.
"I would hear different records and things by Muddy Waters,
Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, Sonnyboy Williams and all
these people, you know, which I just loved."

Although her father encouraged her to sing only gospel music,
Cora and her siblings would sneak out back with their homemade instruments and play the blues. With one brother accompanying
on a guitar made out of bailing wire and nails and one brother
on a fife made out of corncob, she began on the path to blues
woman.

Orphaned at 11, Koko — a nickname she earned because of an
early love of chocolate — at age 18 moved to Chicago with her
soon-to-be-husband, the late Robert "Pops" Taylor, in search
for work.

Setting up house on the South Side, Koko found work as a
cleaning woman for a wealthy family living in the city's
northern suburbs. At night and on weekends, she and her
husband, who would later become her manager, frequented
Chicago's clubs, where many the artists heard on the radio
performed.

"I started going to these local clubs, me and my husband,
and everybody got to know us," Taylor said. "And then the
guys would start letting me sit in, you know, come up on
the bandstand and do a tune."

The break for Tennessee-born Taylor came in 1962, when
arranger/composer Willie Dixon, impressed by her voice, got
her a Chess recording contract and produced several singles
(and two albums) for her, including the million-selling 1965
hit, "Wang Dang Doodle," which she called silly, but which
launched her recording career.

From Chicago blues clubs, Taylor took her raucous, gritty,
good-time blues on the road to blues and jazz festivals
around the nation, and into Europe. After the Chess label
folded, she signed with Alligator Records.

In most years, she performed at least 100 concerts a year.

"Blues is my life," Taylor once said. "It's a true feeling
that comes from the heart, not something that just comes out
of my mouth. Blues is what I love, and blues is what I always
do."

In addition to performing, she operated a Chicago nightclub,
which closed in November 2001 because her daughter, manager
Joyce Threatt, developed severe asthma and could no longer
manage a smoky nightclub.