James Cotton, Giant Of The Blues Harmonica, Dies At 81 : The Record During his 72-year career, Cotton became one of the greatest and most respected bluesmen of the latter 20th century.
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James Cotton, Giant Of The Blues Harmonica, Dies At 81

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James Cotton, Giant Of The Blues Harmonica, Dies At 81

James Cotton, Giant Of The Blues Harmonica, Dies At 81

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(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES COTTON SONG, "CREEPER CREEPS AGAIN")

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

James Cotton died this week at the age of 81. The great harmonica bluesman was one of the last of a generation of artists who've made their way up from the south and made their name in Chicago.

James Cotton played with Muddy Waters for a dozen years and later went on to form his own band. He would eventually enter the harmonica pantheon alongside Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES COTTON SONG, "CREEPER CREEPS AGAIN")

SIMON: We spoke with James Cotton in 2013 when his Grammy-nominated album "Cotton Mouth Man" came out. Keb' Mo', who joined our conversation, sang vocals for Mr. Cotton on that CD. By that time, throat cancer had captured his singing voice, but James Cotton's harmonica continued to wail.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JAMES COTTON: The voice is going, but the wind is still there.

SIMON: The voice is going, but the wind's still there?

COTTON: Yeah. The wind's still blowing.

SIMON: (Laughter) The wind's still blowing. When you listen to Keb' Mo', do you have a sense that he's kind of saying what you would?

COTTON: Yeah. I think so. I know so. Like, I can feel it.

KEB' MO': It was a very unique thing. I've guested on, like, records before and done things, you know? But this was really special because, you know, it was like I've heard James Cotton sing, and when he was singing, he was an amazing singer, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKET 88")

COTTON: (Singing) You women have heard of jalopies. You heard noise they make. Well, let me introduce my new Rocket 88. Yeah, it's straight, just won't wait. Everybody likes my Rocket 88. Baby, we'll ride in style, moving all along...

KEB' MO': I will never be the vocalist that James Cotton, you know, was when he was singing, you know? But I did my best to really take on the task and honor it, you know?

COTTON: You did it.

KEB' MO': Oh, thank you. That there - that's a million dollars right there (laughter).

SIMON: Keb' Mo' and James Cotton, the great bluesman who died this week. He was 81 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES COTTON SONG, "ROCKET 88")

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