03 June 2009

R.I.P. Koko Taylor

One of the pleasures of my life was that for a brief time, I worked in the music business in Chicago. Several times my path crossed that of many Blues artists, but always an enjoyable one was Koko Taylor.

She always had a nice word for EVERYONE, and I was the recipient of those words no less than 20 times in my life. When she called you "baby" you knew it was because she wanted you to get her something but it was always said in a motherly sort of tone that made you feel loved and wanted. Hanging out with her before her shows was just a privilege and she'd share stories about the "old days" and give her opinions about current music as well.

Although I'm hardly a rap music fan, she likened it immediately to the Blues. She lamented that it had it's "gangsta/thug-life" reputation but said that ultimately "it was people singin' about the difficulties in their lives and how they dealt with them on a daily basis and that's what the Blues was all about."

She used to tour every so often with Big Twist and the "tales" she'd tell about Twist were priceless. Out of respect for the dead (Twist passed in 1990) I won't re-tell those in writing, but if you want to know them, just ask me.

She was the Queen of the Blues and Chicago's Very Own (sorry WGN for ripping that off) and that is evident if you go to the Chicago Blues Fest website. She's the damn banner! Blues Fest is June 12th-14th this year and although I don't believe she was scheduled, I'm sure not an artist will leave the stage without paying some sort of tribute.

She was born to share-croppers in Tennessee and came to Chicago in the 50's, was spotted by Willie Dixon and the rest is history.

Today, one year and one day after Bo Diddley passes, Koko passes on from complications from surgery she was having.

Unfortunately this is a constant reminder of an art form that slowly is dying as well. Although there is a burgeoning Blues community coming up, none of the artists will ever share what the Dixons, Taylors, Diddleys went through in their lives. So it's a NEW Blues artform but one that will always pay tribute to the past. The new artists can PLAY the blues, but there's something in these old timers voices when they sing. It's almost as if you can hear the pain they suffered and that's something that younger artists just will struggle to sell as time goes on.

R.I.P. sweet lady and Queen. I'm glad our lives intersected even if for the briefest of moments. I have got to believe there's one hell of a band being put together up in Heaven with you and Willie and Bo together.

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