Only recently passed. If you’ve watched the jam at the end of ‘Blues Brothers 2000’ then you’ve experienced the power vocal of Koko Taylor – even in her later years she still had it, an obvious influence over Janis Joplin.
Koko Taylor sometimes spelled KoKo Taylor (September 28, 1928 – June 3, 2009) was an American Chicago Blues musician, popularly known as the “Queen of the Blues.” She was known primarily for her rough, powerful vocals and traditional blues stylings.
Born Cora Walton in Shelby County Tennessee, Taylor was the daughter of a sharecropper. She left Memphis for chicago, in 1952 with her husband, truck driver Robert “Pops” Taylor. In the late 1950s she began singing in Chicago Blues clubs. She was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1962, and this led to wider performances and her first recording contract. In 1965, Taylor was signed by Chess Records where she recorded “Wang Dang Doodle,” a song written by Dixon and recorded by Howlin’ Wolf five years earlier. The song became a hit, reaching number four on the R&B charts in 1966, and selling a million copies. She subsequently recorded more material, both original and covers, but never repeated that initial chart success.
National touring in the late 1960s and early 1970s improved her fan base, and she became accessible to a wider record-buying public when she signed with Alligator Records in 1975. She recorded nine albums for Alligator, 8 of which were Grammy-nominated, and came to dominate the female blues singer ranks, winning twenty five W.C.Handy Awards (more than any other artist). After her recovery from a near-fatal car crash in 1989, the 1990s found Taylor in films such as Blues Brothers 2000 and Wild at Heart, and she opened a blues club on Division Street in Chicago in 1994, which relocated to Wabash Ave in Chicago’s South Loop in 2000. (The club is now closed.)
In the years leading up to her death, she performed over 70 concerts a year and resided just south of Chicago in Country Club Hills, Illinois.
Koko died on June 3, 2009. Her final performance was at the Blues Music Awards, on May 7, 2009 – only a month before she passed away.