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Taylor at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2006
|Birth name||Cora Anna Walton|
|Also known as||KoKo|
|Born||September 28, 1928|
Shelby County, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||June 3, 2009 (aged 80)|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Genres||Chicago blues, electric blues, rhythm and blues, soul, soul blues, traditional blues|
|Labels||Alligator Records, MCA, Checker, Chess, Yambo Records, Charly Records|
Koko Taylor (born Cora Anna Walton, September 28, 1928 – June 3, 2009) was an American singer whose style encompassed Chicago blues, electric blues, rhythm and blues and soul blues. Sometimes called "The Queen of the Blues", she was known for her rough, powerful vocals.
Life and career
Born on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee, Taylor was the daughter of a sharecropper. She left Tennessee for Chicago in 1952 with her husband, Robert "Pops" Taylor, a truck driver. In the late 1950s, she began singing in blues clubs in Chicago. She was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1962, and this led to more opportunities for performing and her first recordings. In 1963 she had a single on USA Records, and in 1964 a cut on a Chicago blues collection on Spivey Records, called Chicago Blues. In 1964 Dixon brought Taylor to Checker Records, a subsidiary label of Chess Records, for which she recorded "Wang Dang Doodle", a song written by Dixon and recorded by Howlin' Wolf five years earlier. The record became a hit, reaching number four on the R&B chart and number 58 on the pop chart in 1966, and selling a million copies. She recorded several versions of the song over the years, including a live rendition at the 1967 American Folk Blues Festival, with the harmonica player Little Walter and the guitarist Hound Dog Taylor. Her subsequent recordings, both original songs and covers, did not achieve as much success on the charts.
Taylor became better known by touring in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and she became accessible to a wider record-buying public when she signed a recording contract with Alligator Records in 1975. She recorded nine albums for Alligator, eight of which were nominated for Grammy awards, and came to dominate ranks of female blues singers, winning twenty-nine W. C. Handy/Blues Music Awards.
She survived a near-fatal car crash in 1989. In the 1990s, she appeared in the films Blues Brothers 2000 and Wild at Heart. She opened a blues club on Division Street in Chicago in 1994, which relocated to Wabash Avenue, in Chicago's South Loop, in 2000 (the club is now closed).
In 2003, she appeared as a guest with Taj Mahal in an episode of the television series Arthur. In 2009, she performed with Umphrey's McGee at the band's New Year's Eve concert at the Auditorium Theater, in Chicago.
In her later years, she performed over 70 concerts a year and resided just south of Chicago, in Country Club Hills, Illinois.
In 2008, the Internal Revenue Service said that Taylor owed $400,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest, for the years 1998, 2000 and 2001. In those years combined, her adjusted gross income was $949,000.
- Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album, 1985
- Howlin' Wolf Award, 1996
- Blues Hall of Fame, inducted 1997
- Blues Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999
- NEA National Heritage Fellowship, 2004
- Blues Music Award (formerly the W. C. Handy Award), 32 nominations with 29 wins in the following categories:
- Entertainer of the Year (1985)
- Female Artist (1981, 1995)
- Song of the Year (2008)
- Traditional Blues Album (2008)
- Traditional Blues Female Artist (1992, 1993, 1999–2005, 2008, 2009)
- Vocalist of the Year (1985)
- 7th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Blues Album, 2008
- Love You Like a Woman, November 30, 1968 (Charly Records)
- Koko Taylor, 1969 (MCA/Chess Records)
- Basic Soul, 1972 (Chess)
- South Side Lady, 1973 (Black and Blue Records)
- I Got What It Takes, 1975 (Alligator Records)
- Southside Baby, 1975 (Black & Blue)
- The Earthshaker, 1978 (Alligator)
- From the Heart of a Woman, 1981 (Alligator)
- Queen of the Blues, 1985 (Alligator)
- Live from Chicago: An Audience with the Queen, 1987 (Alligator)
- Wang Dang Doodle, 1991 (Huub Records)
- Jump for Joy, 1992 (Alligator)
- Force of Nature, 1993 (Alligator)
- Royal Blue, 2000 (Alligator)
- Old School, 2007 (Alligator)
- Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 246. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- "Chicago Tribune: Chicago breaking news, sports, business, entertainme…". Archive.today. 28 December 2012. Archived from the original on 28 December 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- Keepnews, Peter (June 4, 2009) "Koko Taylor, Queen of Chicago Blues, Is Dead at 80". The New York Times.
- 45 Discography for U.S.A. Records http://www.globaldogproductions.info/u/usa.html
- Spivey Records Discography http://www.wirz.de/music/spivey.htm
- Whitburn, Joel (2000). Top Pop Singles 1955–1999. Record Research. p. 641. ISBN 0-89820-139-X.
- Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: T". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 15, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
- "Awards Winners and Nominees". blues.org. The Blues Foundation. Retrieved October 24, 2017.
- Novack, Janet; Barrett, William P. (June 2, 2008). "Singing Tax Blues". Forbes.
- Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2009 January to June". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2013-03-21.
- Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
- "The Musicians Atlas - 2008 Independent Music Awards Winners". Web.archive.org. 6 March 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- Official website (redirected to the Koko's page at Alligator Records website)
- Koko Taylor at AllMusic
- Koko Taylor discography at Discogs
- Koko Taylor on IMDb
- Co-host of "Blues you can use", FM radio station WGVE 88.7, Gary, Indiana
- "Queen of the Blues: Koko Taylor Talks About Her Subjects", interview by James Plath, 1994
- Interview with Koko Taylor on Centerstage Chicago (June 2007)
- Wild Women Don't Have the Blues features interviews with Koko Taylor
- Hoekstra, Dave. "Chicago legend and 'Queen of the Blues' Koko Taylor dead at 80," Chicago Sun-Times, Wednesday, June 3, 2009.
- Koko Taylor - Daily Telegraph obituary