(September 28, 1928 – June 3, 2009)
In 1963, Koko Taylor was discovered by renowned bluesman Willie Dixon in a Chicago nightclub. Decades later, as a Grammy Award winner and the undisputed holder of the "Queen of the Blues" title, Taylor achieved legendary status. An accomplished vocalist known for her hard-driving style, she is one of but a handful of women to receive widespread recognition in the male-dominated blues profession. The key to her success, Taylor admitted in an interview with Contemporary Musicians, was her adherence to tradition. "I’m about the only woman out there singing the old, traditional Mississippi blues," she said. "Guys like the Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters … this is where I got my inspiration from. This is where I got my courage and strength. I would think that’s what caused me to be where I am today." Taylor’s efforts did not go without recognition. In addition to popular acclaim, her work has received rave reviews and honors. Of the 12 albums she had recorded by the early 1990s, seven were nominated for Grammy Awards. Blues Explosion, recorded with then-up-and-coming bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan, was the recipient of a Grammy in 1984. Taylor has also received the prestigious W.C. Handy Award several times. Taylor influenced musicians such as Bonnie Raitt, Shemekia Copeland, Janis Joplin, Shannon Curfman, and Susan Tedeschi. In the years prior to her death, she performed over 70 concerts a year. Her final performance was at the Blues Music Awards, on May 7, 2009.