Chicago Blues Legend Otis Clay Dies At 73
MISSISSIPPI-born, CHICAGO-spawned soul singer OTIS CLAY died FRIDAY, JANUARY 15th, of a heart attack, according to his surviving daughter, RONDA TANKSON, a CHICAGO special education teacher whose students include autistic children..
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE's HOWARD REICH, dubbed CLAY "an uncommonly eclectic musician who drew upon more stylistic influences than even his more ardent fans may have realized."
The one-time GRAMMY nominee collected hits in the late '60s with "That's How It Is (When You're in Love), " in the early '70s with "Trying to Live My Life Without You" (later covered by BOB SEGER) and in the '80s with "When the Gates Swing Open, " having been influenced by the likes of DUKE ELLINGTON and THOMAS A. DORSEY, SAM COOKE and MUDDY WATERS, among many others.
CLAY was inducted into the BLUES HALL OF FAME in 2013.
CHICAGO blues musician DAVE SPECTER, who collaborated with CLAY on "Message in Blue, " his own critically applauded 2014 album, stated: "OTIS conveyed power with soul music and with blues like very few people I've ever heard live. It was as good as it gets.
"His live shows — it was so stirring, and so moving. And he was a great showman. Not when you think of a showman being an over-the-top entertainer on steroids. Nothing like that. It was so real."
"My life always has been a combination of things musically, " Clay told the CHICAGO TRIBUNE in 2013, marking the release of his album "Truth Is."
Born FEBRUARY 11th, 1942 in WAXSHAW, MI, CLAY talked of listening to the GRAND OLE OPRY on SATURDAY nights, MEMPHIS radio and SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON out of HELENA, AR.
He came to CHICAGO as a teenager, in the mid-'50s, to live with his uncle and aunt, absorbing the city's vibrant blues scene.
By age 15, he was singing gospel with the GOLDEN JUBILAIRES, and three years later, in 1960, touring with CHARLES BRIDGES' FAMOUS BLUE JAY SINGERS, performing for mixed audiences.
CLAY began releasing soul records on CHICAGO's ONE-DERFULlabel in the '60s, he never lost touch with his gospel roots, recording and performing in that style throughout his career. After signing with ATLANTIC's brand-new COTILLION label in 1968, he had an R&B hit with his "scalding" cover of SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET's "She's About A Mover, " then followed up with a session featuring fellow soul man SYL JOHNSON and some MEMPHIS recording with legendary HI RECORDS producer WILLIE MITCHELL at his ROYAL RECORDING STUDIOS, including the tortured ballad, "Is It Over." In the '70s, at the height of disco, he developed a following in JAPAN. In 2008, he received his lone GRAMMY nomination for his gospel album, "Walk A Mile In My Shoes, " in the Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance category.
CLAY was an avid humanitarian whose charitable works include the development of the HAROLD WASHINGTON CULTURAL CENTER and a board member of PEOPLE FOR NEW DIRECTION, a community-based non-profit creating economic initatives for those less fortunate.
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