Chicago blues guitarist Otis Rush has died at the age of 84 as a result of complications related to a stroke he suffered in 2003, his wife announced. The left-handed player helped define the West Side sound in the ‘50s alongside Cobra Records labelmates Buddy Guy, Magic Sam and others.

“Rush exemplified the modernized minor key urban blues style with his slashing, amplified jazz-influenced guitar playing, high-strained passionate vocals and backing by a full horn section,” the statement on his website read. “Rush's first recording in 1956 on Cobra Records 'I Can't Quit You Baby' reached No.6 on the Billboard R&B Charts and catapulted him to international acclaim. He went on to record a catalog of music that contains many songs that are now considered blues classics.”

 

Rush was born in Mississippi in 1935 and began teaching himself guitar at the age of eight, playing the instrument upside down to take account of his left-hand approach. After moving to Chicago in 1949, a Muddy Waters show inspired him to pursue music full-time. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” was later covered by Led Zeppelin, while later single “All Your Love (I Miss Loving)” was later covered by John Mayall and “Double Trouble” was covered by Eric Clapton and inspired the name of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band.

“I heard Muddy Waters after I came to Chicago,” Rush once told TravelingBoy.com. “Muddy was the first guy I saw on the bandstand, and I said, 'well this is for me,’ you know? And they were sounding very good and I felt like I had to do the same thing…” Asked to define what the blues meant to him, he replied, “Trouble! Troubles! Double Troubles! Double troubles; believe me, the blues… They come from that woman, and financially… needs…and you know, love."

His final album, 1998’s Any Place I’m Going, won him the Best Traditional Blues Album Grammy the following year, but his career was cut short by his stroke in 2003. He attended but was unable to perform at the Otis Rush Day celebrations in Chicago in 2016. He’d been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984, and later placed at No. 53 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists list.

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