CHICAGO (AP) – Hundreds of mourners turned out Thursday at a music-filled wake for Chicago blues icon Koko Taylor, whose regal bearing and powerful voice earned her the nickname “Queen of the Blues.”

Among those who paid tribute to Taylor were Mayor Richard Daley and musicians Denise Williams and Otis Clay. The “Queen” lay in a glass-topped casket at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters on Chicago’s South Side, dressed in an elegant off-white silk brocade dress, gloves and a tiara,

Daley told mourners that Taylor’s legacy will endure because of the power of her life story.

“You really haven’t lost her,” Daley said.

Clarence Stevens, host of an Indiana blues radio show, recalled that Taylor always insisted that he stay for dinner when he visited her. He noted her influence on a new generation of blues artists and her efforts to keep the music alive.

“We have to educate our children. We even have to educate our adults” about the blues, Stevens told The Associated Press. “But the blues will never die.”

Williams, Clay and other musicians in town for this weekend’s Chicago Blues Festival planned to perform at a memorial service later Thursday.

Her funeral is Friday.

Born Cora Walton just outside Memphis, Tenn., Taylor said in a 1990 interview that her dream to become a blues singer was nurtured in the cotton fields outside her family’s sharecropper shack.

Orphaned at 11, Koko – a nickname she earned because of an early love of chocolate – moved to Chicago at age 18 with her soon-to-be-husband, the late Robert “Pops” Taylor, in search for work.

He would later be her manager.

While Taylor didn’t have widespread mainstream success, her career spanned more than five decades and she was beloved by blues aficionados.

Her work included the best-selling song “Wang Dang Doodle” and tunes such as “What Kind of Man is This” and “I Got What It Takes.”

Taylor made numerous national television appearances, was the subject of a PBS documentary and had a small part in director David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart.” She earned seven Grammy nominations and won in 1984.

Taylor last performed on May 7 in Memphis, Tenn., at the Blues Music Awards.

She died June 3 at age 80 shortly after having surgery because of gastrointestinal bleeding.

Another visitation will be held Friday afternoon also at Rainbow/PUSH headquarters, followed by her funeral with a eulogy to be delivered by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.


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