CHICAGO -- Koko Taylor, a sharecropper's daughter whose regal bearing and powerful voice earned her the sobriquet "Queen of the Blues," has died in Chicago after complications from surgery. She was 80.
Taylor died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Wednesday afternoon, about two weeks after surgery to correct a gastrointestinal bleed, the Sun-Times first reported. Taylor had emergency surgery for the same ailment in 2003 and wound up on a ventilator, but recovered and was back on stage by the spring of 2004.
Taylor was a Chicago transplant. Born in Tennessee in 1928, she moved to the Windy City in her early 20s. Her big break came in 1963, when arranger/composer Willie Dixon heard her in a Chicago club and got her a recording contract. He went on to produce several singles and two albums for her. She recorded under the labels USA, Chess and Alligator Records. Her first album with Alligator, in 1975, earned her a Grammy nomination -- her first of six.
Taylor last performed May 7 at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis. She sang "Wang Dang Doodle," her signature song, and received her 29th Blues Music Award -- more than any other artist. A performer to the end, she had upcoming tour dates in Spain, Canada and the U.S.
In a recent interview with LXTV, Ms. Taylor said she hasn’t changed her style in all her years of singing, and she didn’t think she ever would.
“That’s what I want the world to know: Koko Taylor is a blues singer, no more and no less,” she said.
Then she broke into song.