Koko Taylor | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Koko Taylor




Koko Taylor has done as much as anyone to refute the stereotype of the long-suffering blues chanteuse, battered by life and reduced to reveling in masochism. Even in the early 60s, when producer Willie Dixon sometimes saddled her with overwrought paeans to suffering and hard times, she cut through the bathos with searing power and a steely emotional tautness that allowed her to transform pleading lyrics like "Don't criticize me, save me / Whatever I am, you made me" into hard-edged demands for justice. These days she bills herself as the "queen of the blues," and although she's suffered more than her share of health problems and personal tragedies in recent years, she's still got the chops to back that title up: her timbre is leather tough, and although the upper echelons of her range have been pretty well ravaged, she still packs a wallop in a variety of tonal and emotional shadings. Best known for her anthems of womanly power, she can also wrench tears from ballads like "I'd Rather Go Blind," and she radiates a warmth that borders on the spiritual: few performers in any genre are as capable as she is of generating genuine intimacy out of fervid house-rocking moments. With the losses the blues world has recently suffered, we can't afford to take our living treasures for granted. Friday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-527-2583 or 312-923-2000. DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Peter Amft.

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