Koko Taylor, a Chicago musical icon who became one of the most revered female blues vocalists of her time with signature hits such as “Wang Dang Doodle,” “I’m a Woman” and “Hey Bartender,” died Wednesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago of complications from gastrointestinal surgery. She was 80.
Her death came less than four weeks after her last performance, at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis, where she collected her record 29th Blues Music Award. She had surgery May 19 and appeared to be recovering until taking a turn Wednesday morning, and was with friends and family when she died.
Born Cora Walton in Memphis in 1928, she grew up on a sharecropper’s farm outside Memphis. Young Cora and her three brothers and two sisters slept on pallets in a shotgun shack with no running water or electricity. By the time she was 11, both her parents had died. She picked cotton to survive, and moved to Chicago in the early ’50s to be with her future husband, Robert “Pops” Taylor. She found a job working as a domestic. Pops Taylor died in 1989.
She had sung gospel music in church while living in the South, and on weekends would attend the blues clubs in Chicago’s burgeoning South Side scene, the heyday of Chess Records and such stalwarts as Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon. She would occasionally sit in and caught the ear of Dixon, who approached her in the early ’60s about recording one of his songs, “Wang Dang Doodle.”
Her longtime manager and friend, Bruce Iglauer was with her when she died. He had this to say about her:
“She was of the same generation as Muddy [Waters] and [Howlin'] Wolf, she had those [Mississippi] Delta roots,” he said Wednesday. “Even though she had been living in Chicago since the ’50s, her music was still deeply rooted in the South. She had that rhythmic sense, that sense of where you lay the words and how the band locks in around the singer, that intensity of people who have lived that life.”
You will now be with the rest of the Blues greats who passed before you Koko.. rest in peace dear lady.Below is Koko singing I cried like a baby. Oh, How I love this song by her. I so looked forward to hearing her...now she is gone.