Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Long Live The Queen of the Blues



The blues runs through my blood. It seeped in through the Mississippi cotton fields of my father and the New Orleans swamp land of my grandfather. It jumped out and grabbed me in Chicago blues clubs and never let go. Although the genre reveres and focuses on men and manhood, Koko Taylor snatched the spotlight with gutsy vocals and growls that few men matched. She was born to Memphis sharecroppers and scrubbed floors in Chicago houses until Willie Dixon heard her formidable contralto and urged her to record. He wrote her signature 1965 hit "Wang Dang Doodle," which pushed her to the forefront of the blues, where she remained for four decades straight. She won 29 music awards over her impressive career, including a Grammy and an NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award. What made Koko Taylor the Queen of the Blues was not just her voice but a regal, commanding spirit that forces your attention. The blues doesn't just represent pain and sorrow, but strength and the joy of living. Koko personified those characteristics. She died today at 80, from complications of gastrointestinal surgery. Her music and spirit live on as vividly as when she performed. The video below shows Koko performing last year at the Kennedy Center Honors. She honors Mississippi native Morgan Freeman but as you can see from Pete Townsend's face, she's really demonstrating the unending legacy of the blues. It's an appropriate display of her fierceness, commanding the stage at 79, singing a female version of the song popularized by Muddy Waters as an anthem to manhood.


13 comments:

Ebony Intuition said...

R.I.P

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

What a beautiful video. Great tribute FFG!! Just beautiful.
Have a great day and......

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Kalyber said...

I heard the news on the car radio going home last night. I thought about you, and Tony and mostly Maurizio and comments he made after meeting Koko Taylor.

Man I miss you guys. Can't wait to see you on the 13th. For Pie.

Fly Girl said...

Ebony and Reggie, thanks for dropping by and helping pay tribute.

Katie, those were good times! Only pie can do them justice!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

She is not someone I knew a lot about. Koko didn't get a lot of publicity in Britain.

A Cuban In London said...

Oh, dear, oh dear! We are synched! We definitely are. It's not just that my birthday is on 16th Nov (yes, hence the reference), it's also the content of this post (great, great tribute, by the way) and the post I finished last week for next Tuesday's 'Killer Opening Song' column. I shan't say anymore. That video was the business. I have only heard a couple of tracks by her on my scrobbler (last.fm software) and found her voice very distinctive.

Many, many thanks and this yet another example of synchronicity. It's happened many times since I started blogging but it should not be a surprise because I share so many of your own passions, too.

Greetings from London.

A Cuban In London said...

Thanks for your comment on mmy blog. I had to come over because Oggun... and Oshun! :-). What, next thing you'll tell me is that he had to wrest you away from another guy whose name was Shango :-D!

Seriously now, next Tuesday 9th June, 11:59pm GMT, the blues pays yet another visit to my blog. Slightly different from Bob Bozman, though. This time, to borrow a line from Blackstreet, 'I'm going way back, back into time'. Have a fab weekend.

Greetings from London.

Fly Girl said...

Jean-Luc, Koko was very popular in Europe like most blues musicians but she never enjoyed wide visibility outside the genre. So if you're not into blues, you probably haven't heard of her. I'm glad that you have been now introduced.

Cubano, Oh yes, I thought so. Scorpios always have a lot of psychic things floating around them so it makes sense. I will be looking forward to that killer opening song!

Dirk said...

I appreciate the labour you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

Pa Ibou said...

R.I.P. Koko

Fly Girl said...

Thanks for dropping by Dirk and Pa.

Panama Real Estate said...

Who needs to go to the movies when you can see one in the making on your own property!

Maureen said...

I'm bummed that -- although I've lived in Chicago off and on for 40 years -- I probably only saw Koko Taylor live ONCE, if that. Shame on me for missing out on an international treasure, and one that was so close to home. Thanks for the reminder that we shouldn't take these amazing talents for granted!