June 3, 2009

Blues icon Koko Taylor dead at 80

Famed blues singer and band leader Koko Taylor died Wednesday at a Chicago hospital, her record label said. She was 80.

The Memphis native, who was born Cora Walton, had been in Northwestern Memorial Hospital recuperating from an operation she had last month to stop gastrointestinal bleeding, the Chicago Tribune reported.

She was recovering slowly but surely, and then she had a real bad night, Marc Lipkin, a spokesman for Taylor's longtime label, Alligator Records, told the newspaper.

Taylor started out singing in church choirs and later became a star in Chicago nightclubs where she developed a loyal following. Her biggest hit was Wang Dang Doodle.

All music derives from blues and gospel, Taylor once said. When you seek a higher power, that gives you the gospel. When you want to share your experience so that you can move on and go on, that's the blues. It doesn't have to be depressing. It's life itself.

Taylor is survived by her husband Hays Harris, a daughter and son-in-law, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, the Chicago Sun-Times said.

Funeral arrangements had not yet been announced, the Sun-Times said.