Blues legend Koko Taylor Dies
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. KOKO TAYLOR (Singer): (Singing) Hey, y'all. Listen to me. I want to tell you a thing or two.
BLOCK: That unmistakable voice belongs to the legendary blues singer Koko Taylor. Taylor died in Chicago today. She was 80 years old. They called her the Queen of the Blues. While she came to personify Chicago blues, she got her start early, like so many blues greats, along the Mississippi River. Here she is from an NPR interview in 2000.
Ms. TAYLOR: I was born and raised down in Memphis, Tennessee, on what we call a sharecropper's cotton farm. You know, all of the older guys and things that was playing in music and I'd been listening to, they would just get their harmonicas and guitars or whatever they had and get together, and everybody would just sing the delta blues, play the delta blues, and everybody had a good time in their own way.
BLOCK: Born Cora Walton, Taylor got her nickname Koko from her love of chocolate. Like many African-Americans in the south, she moved to Chicago in search of work. She was 18 at the time. Taylor and her late husband, Robert Pops Taylor, made their home on the city's south side.
Taylor hung out in blues clubs, where she was discovered by composer and arranger Willie Dixon. He helped her get a contract with Chicago's Chess Records. At Chess, she produced a string of hits, including the blockbuster, "Wang Dang Doodle."
(Soundbite of song "Wang Dang Doodle")
Ms. TAYLOR: (Singing) We're going to pitch a wang dang doodle all night long. All night long. All night long. All night long. All night long. We're going to pitch a wang dang doodle all night long. Tell Kudu-Crawlin' Red, tell Abyssinian Ned. Tell ol' Pistol Pete to tell everybody he meet. Tonight we need no rest. We're going to really throw a mess.
BLOCK: Taylor became a staple on bandstands in Chicago and throughout the U.S. and Europe. She would go on to make dozens of records. She was nominated for several Grammys and won in 1984. She never strayed far from sweet home Chicago, where she operated her own blues club.
Ms. TAYLOR: My blues is not depressing. When I go up on stage to sing blues, I have joy in every lyric that come out of my mouth. I'm up there to make other people feel good, not to make them feel sad. So, my blues, it's not sad at all, it's all fun and happiness and telling a story, relating to other people where they can relate to what I'm singing about.
You know, every song that you sing, it might - that shoe might not fit your feet, but it's going to fit somebody else's. You know, you touch somebody's heart through a song.
BLOCK: Blues singer Koko Taylor died today after complications from a surgery for a gastrointestinal bleed. She was 80 years old.
(Soundbite of music)
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