The back of Koko Taylor's 1978 record The Earthshaker shows a black-and-white photo of the blues belter and her band in a smoke-filled bar, seated around a table that's packed with bottles of booze, loose $10 bills, and Pall Mall cigarettes. Taylor is looking at the camera, disheveled hair falling down over one eye, smiling as she refills her glass. It's an image that captures the raw, raucous approach to the blues that Taylor's taken for the past 43 years. Like her idol, Big Mama Thornton, Taylor has brought an unabashed, sweat-it-out, powerful presence to the stage. She's never been a pretty, poised kewpie doll with a flower in her hair, smiling graciously for the camera. From her legendary 1965 recording of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle," to foot-stompin' standards like "Hey Bartender" and "You Can Have My Husband (But Please Don't Mess With My Man)," Taylor has created balls-to-the-wall blues with unassailable energy. Even now, at the age of 69, she continues to play more than 100 shows a year. And she still belts out a mean barnburner.
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