Soul singer, Blues Hall of Fame inductee and charitable Chicago activist Otis Clay has died, his management confirmed on the artist’s official website Friday.
He was 73.
Clay, known for blues songs like “Trying to Live My Life Without You” and “The Only Way is Up,” died after suffering a heart attack, his daughter, Ronda Tankson, confirmed. The Mississippi-born legend had a year of touring planned to promote recent records, manager Miki Mulvehill told the Chicago Sun-Times.
He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2013.
From Rolling Stone:
After signing with Chicago label One-derful! Records, Clay nabbed R&B hits with 1967’s “That’s How It Is (When You’re In Love)” and “A Lasting Love.” Following a move to Atlantic Records’ Cauldron subsidiary, Clay recorded a version of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About a Mover” at Muscle Shoals, Alabama’s FAME Studios.
Clay next teamed with Al Green producer Willie Mitchell at Memphis-based Hi Records in 1971, resulting in Clay’s biggest hit, “Trying to Live My Life Without You”; nearly a decade later, Bob Seger would climb the Hot 100 with his own version of the single. Similarly, Clay’s 1980 single “The Only Way Is Up” would be the inspiration for Yazz’s U.K. chart-topping cover in 1988.
“My life always has been a combination of things musically,” Clay told the Chicago Tribune in 2013. “Every Saturday night I listened to the Grand Ole Opry. During the day, later on, you listened to (radio) coming out of Memphis. During the noonday, at 12 o’clock, we listened to Sonny Boy Williamson, coming out of Helena, Arkansas, and I’m listening to Vaughn Monroe and Rosemary Clooney and listening to Hank Williams and Roy Acuff.”
Clay was known for more than his music — a longtime resident of Chicago’s West Side, Clay often devoted his time to humanitarian efforts and community outreach.
May he rest in peace.