Giant of blues harmonica, James Cotton, did not survive pneumonia at 81
American blues harmonica player James Cotton died on Thursday 16 March 2017 of pneumonia at the age of 81 years in a medical center in Austin. Nicknamed "Mr. Superharp", he played with, among others, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Gregg Allman, Santana and Grateful Dead. A representative of the musician confirms the death of James Cotton.
Born on July 1, 1935 on a cotton farm in Tunica, Mississippi, James Cotton became known in the 50's after recording two singles for the famous Sun label and played a few concerts with Muddy Waters.
The harmonica player started his career as a teenager and toured with Williamson and Howlin' Wolf. In 1953, James Cotton recorded his first single, "Straighten Up baby", and "Cotton Crop Blues".
James Cotton, nicknamed "Mr. Superharp", formed The James Cotton Band in 1966 with Luther Tucker, guitarist and Sam Lay, drummer. He plays with Matt "Guitar" Murphy and Hubert Sumlin and will explore the blues rock with Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, BB King, Santana, Steve Miller and Freddie King, among others.
"Hard Again" album of Muddy Waters with James Cotton released in 1977 allowed the harmonica player to win a Grammy in the Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording category at the 20th Grammy Awards ceremony in 1977. James Cotton was also on albums of Sumlin, Memphis Slim, Steve Miller and many others, and invited Miller, Winter, Dr. John, Todd Rundgren, David Sanborn etc ... on his own recordings.
James Cotton continued to record throughout the 80's and won the Best Classic Blues Grammy Album for "Deep in the Blues" in 1997. His most recent album "Cotton Mouth Man" released in 2013 was also nominated for a Grammy.
Throughout his life, James Cotton won 6 Living Blues Awards and 10 Blues Music Awards. The New York City Lincoln Center recognized his contributions to the blues with a tribute concert in 2010. Five years later, the Montreal International Jazz Festival gave James Cotton his B.B. King award.
In 2013, Cotton will tell the Rolling Stone magazine his thoughts about his retirement. "You work so hard to get there, that once you get there, you do not want to drop ... because at that point, it's up to you ... You paid the price ..."
Details of James Cotton’s funeral are yet to be announced. Cotton leaves behind his wife, Jacklyn Hairston Cotton, his daughters, Teresa Hampton and Marshall Ann Cotton, his son James Patrick Cotton as well as his grandchildren and great grandchildren.