'Queen of the Blues' Koko Taylor dies at 80

KOKO-TAYLOR2.jpgBlues diva Koko Taylor died today after complications from surgery. She was 80.

Though she was born just outside Memphis in Shelby County, Taylor is remembered as a Chicago blues artist, recording for decades with the classic Chess Records label and more recently with Windy City indie Alligator Records. However, her years in Memphis (she moved to Chicago at age 18 with her husband) undoubtedly shaped her sound, according to a quote that AP runs from a 1990 interview:

 "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 (sic) and all these people, you know, which I just loved."

Furthermore, Taylor's final performance was May 7 at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis, where she was honored as Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year.

Even at age 80, Taylor had a host of gigs scheduled for the summer festival season, pending recovery from her surgery. Manager Bruce Iglauer tells the Chicago Tribune:

"She was scheduled to go to Spain next week," he said. "She was still performing. At the Blues Awards in Memphis a few weeks ago, she was absolutely glowing. She would be exhausted standing by the edge of the stage, but when the lights went up, she would hop up and dance as soon as the music started. She would always say, 'If I can brighten one person's day with my music, that's what I live for.' "
Chicago Tribune music writer Greg Kot also weighs in with a Koko Taylor best-of list. NPR's All Songs Considered blog has a host of video and audio clips.

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