RIP, Koko Taylor, I Knew and Loved Ye.

She passed yesterday, this legendary voice at the age of 80. I remember more when she was around 52, and used to hang out at the huge Blues House my friend lived in, in Dearborn.


The Detroit/Chicago blues community was tight knit, and nearly every weekend, the band my friend lived with would drag some musicians back from places like The Soup Kitchen, The Attic, Lenny’s and by god, it was divine.

The bigger “planned parties” would have a 5 dollar cover, with 2 full garbage bags of pre-rooled doobies by the door, and 7 or 8 kegs in the basement where the music was. The “other” stuff was usually available in pay-as-you-go in one of the 10 bedrooms. Heh.

I had never been properly introduced to the world of the blues, fresh out of High School, and what a way to learn them… so many greats whose names I didn’t recognize until much later played, sang and hung with us.

But Koko. Jesus, she could stop you cold. The funny thing is, some people would come in with an entourage, and splash, you KNEW “someone” had arrived. Most times you never noticed Koko come in, she had a way of making herself invisible I have often envied… but suddenly this VOICE would ring through the house, and everyone would jam down the stairs to hear her.

GOD she could sing.  Her shy little self would sidle up with all the flashy other stars, and when she opened her mouth you KNEW where the talent was.

This ginormous house had only one bathroom, too. The lines sometimes would make you think of a concert. Think 1981. So, you would be waiting forever, while some dumbass locked themselves and a few friends in there to do lines. “Hey, no one cares, go snort that shit upstairs, we have to PEE.” By then the men were mostly delegated outside.

So once we ousted them, often two or three of us girls would pack in, take turns peeing and fixing our hair and makeup. I had one of those one-hit bullet coke thingies and was about to do a little tiny pick me up, out of my 1/4 gram stash. Koko gave me a little what-for. Told me she was old enough to be my Mother, and that I was way too young to be messing myself up in that stuff. She was right. I’d love to say I never did it again, but that would be a lie. I dabbled with it once in a while for a few more years. Mostly, my low tolerance levels made it more work than it was worth, and I am fast enough without the speed. Even that night, mostly I was more about the beer and an occasional doob. (back in the days of cheap pot where you could smoke a whole doob without becoming catatonic like the new hydro hi-powered shit does) Something came on good downstairs, reverberating up through the pipes and heat registers and we sang along back up in the echo-ey huge old poured plaster bathroom. We laughed our butts off. I didn’t know enough back then to be afraid or shy of her.

I did put my stash away though un-done, and we went out and sat on the couch and bullshitted for a while. She was telling stories to me, and I wish I could remember even one. I do remember her telling me that her life went from too slow to too fast, too quick, and to take my time growing up. The rest, too many brain cells ago… I was like 18-20 years old then. I was just more mesmerized by her voice and her aura. She was a pure being, a kindred, and liked me too. She remembered my name every time I saw her after that. “You ain’t doing none of that bad stuff are you child?” “No ma’am not tonight!”

This is how I really remember her, and the sound is just like the cavernous basement in those all night parties. The song is after the intro. If you only have time for one, this is like mainlining you directly into my own memory.

“Don’t put your hands on me” (man, did I hear THAT one then..)

“Good Times Roll/I’m a Woman”

I feel really honored to have spent time with you darling.

Rest easy, and make the heavens just a bit more “blue” today.


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    • Diane G on June 4, 2009 at 10:09 pm
    • Diane G on June 4, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Wang dang doodle

    • RiaD on June 5, 2009 at 1:53 am


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