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I Got What It Takes

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A Look Back At Koko Taylor, Queen Of The Blues

A Look Back At Koko Taylor, Queen Of The Blues

Listen to Morning Edition's remembrance of Taylor.

Blues legend Koko Taylor died this afternoon. That's one of the few introductory sentences about Taylor that don't also include the words "The Queen of Chicago Blues" — or, more ambitiously and just as accurately, "The Queen of the Blues."

The 80-year-old legend (born Cora Walton), who died following complications from May 19 gastrointestinal surgery, experienced her greatest commercial success performing Willie Dixon's classic song "Wang Dang Doodle" (also popularized by Howlin' Wolf), for which you can watch a video here:

But that song crashed the charts in 1966, and Taylor has been a beloved, award-winning blues staple ever since. Since signing with the Alligator label in the mid-'70s, she's won a Grammy (for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1985), not to mention literally dozens of Blues Music Awards — the latest of which she won on May 7. (Taylor gave her last performance that night.) More importantly, she remained a touring powerhouse until very recently, bringing a raw and gutty sound to blues clubs and midsize theaters across the country well into her old age.

In the days to come, look for impassioned tributes to Taylor from the singers who succeeded her — particularly the brash young likes of Shemekia Copeland and Susan Tedeschi, who owe her a tremendous debt. Taylor earned every kind word they say.

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Koko Taylor with Lonnie Brooks and Junior Wells, recorded live at the Woodlands in 1993:

Hear more of Taylor's recorded legacy below, and leave your thoughts on the singer's legacy in the comments section.

"I Got What It Takes":

Wang Dang Doodle

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"Piece of Man":

Piece of Man

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"Wang Dang Doodle":

I Got What It Takes

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/104914248/104915159" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Purchase: Amazon.com / Amazon MP3 / iTunes