Saturday, January 09, 2016

Otis Clay RIP

I am devastated by the news that the great Otis Clay has passed away aged 73. When I saw him at the Porretta Soul Festival in 2012 I described him as 'possibly the greatest living soul singer'. And so he was. His gravelly voice was the epitome of soulfulness and both his records and his live act were simply amazing.
Born in Mississippi, he graduated into soul music via the traditional gospel route and enjoyed his first successes on the Chicago-based One-derful label with That's How It Is (When You're In Love) and A Lasting Love. When the label folded he moved to Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion and enjoyed success with a cover of She's About A Mover. Moving to Hi records in Memphis in 1971 Otis recorded some of his very best material, with Willie Mitchell's gorgeous backing making them even more special. Stand out tracks from this period included Trying To Live My Life Without You, That's How It Is, Precious Precious, I've Got To Find A Way and I Can't Take It.
He went on to record for Kayvette, Elka and Rounder and enjoyed success with the original of The Only Way Is Up. His live albums, including Soul Man: Live In Japan, and Otis Clay Live were among the most exciting live records ever made - hardly surprising as Otis was a tremendous live act. I saw Otis perform several times, most recently at the Take Me To The River show in London, with William Bell and Bobby Rush also on the bill, and he always put on a great show. Other memorable shows included the Memphis Soul Night at the Town and Country in London in 1990, which also featured Ann Peebles, David Hudson, Billy Always and Willie Mitchell, a show at the Royal Festival Hall in London with John Hammond and Albert Collins in 1993, my first visit to Porretta in 1997, and at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2011.
Otis, you will be badly missed. There was no one else left who could generate such excitement.
The top photo shows Otis with me at Porretta in 2012. The second shows Otis at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2011 and the third shows him with Bobby Rush and William Bell at Take Me To The River in London in 2014. Below is a small selection of his LPs.


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