Grammy-nominated Chicago blues legend Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater has died of heart failure at the age of 83, according to his record label.
Clearwater, born Edward Harrington in 1935 in Mississippi, died in his hometown of Skokie, the label, Alligator Records, said in a statement.
“Chicago has lost one of our legendary blues musicians, innovators and ambassadors to the world,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “Clearwater leaves behind a lifetime of songs that gave a voice to the soul of the city that he loved.”
The 2016 Blues Hall of Fame inductee moved to Chicago in 1950, where he took music jobs with gospel groups playing in local churches before he started performing in West and South Side bars.
His music career took off from there, as critics and listeners lauded him for his individual brand of blues. Clearwater recorded 17 solo albums, including his 2003 album “Rock ‘N’ Roll City,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. His most recent release was “Soul Funky” in 2014.
“Eddy was a top-notch showman who remained humbled as his beginnings in rural Mississippi. He always brought in fans from around the world and rocked the house,” Mark Maddox, manager and talent buyer at Buddy Guy’s Legends, said in a statement. “He and his band would have headlined Buddy Guy’s Legends on Friday, June 8th. The Buddy Guy Family at Legends will miss him.”
In an interview with the Sun-Times in March, Clearwater, who along with blues icons Buddy Guy and Bobby Rush performed special concerts to benefit prostate cancer research and prevention, spoke about what blues music meant to him. “Blues comes from the heart and soul,” Clearwater said in the interview. “And what we are doing with these shows comes from the heart and soul. Blues speaks to all colors, ages, races. It’s about life and living. It’s very spiritual.”
Ronnie Baker Brooks, who produced Clearwater’s “West Side Strut” album, said in a statement, “He was like an uncle to me. Eddy watched me grow up with my dad the legendary, Lonnie Brooks. I’d be running around but listening to them play guitar. We had been working on his next CD release; co-writing was so healing for me since my father’s death. We just wrote some killer songs together. I was so looking forward to doing this next record with him.”
Clearwater is survived by his wife, Renee Greenman Harrington Clearwater; six children; and two grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Chicago Jewish Funerals, 8851 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie.
Clearwater will be honored from 8 to 11 a.m. June 10 at Blues For Breakfast at Motor Row Brewing, 2337 S. Michigan.