Otis Rush, the Chicago blues legend, passed away at the age of 84. His wife, Masaki Rush, announced the news on his website. After suffering a stroke in 2003, Rush has been inactive for the last fifteen years.
Although his career ended in his late 60’s, Rush will go down in history as one of the cornerstones of the Chicago blues scene in the 1950’s and the 1960’s.
Rush was known for his minor-key vibes and vocals, influencing the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Carlos Santana, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. During the Chicago Blues festival in 2016, the Windy City honored his legacy while he watched in his wheel char underneath a black hat.
Otis once said to an interviewer, “I don’t do nothing but worry, yeah, but that’s about what I do, worry about my damn hard times and bills.”
Otis lived a life of hardship but yet opportunities, however, while his life may not have been exactly how he wanted, his art shined due to his ability to convey struggle through guitar-playing.
Born in Philadelphia, in 1934, Otis worked on a sharecropping farm before finally packing his bags and moving to Chicago fourteen years later with the rest of his family.
After he saw Muddy Waters perform, brought along to Waters’ concert by his mother, Otis found inspiration. He quickly learned how to play the guitar left-handed, finding out later that he was holding a guitar upside down.
People walking by his apartment would often hear him loudly playing the guitar on Wentworth Avenue. Eventually, he studied other peoples’ records and hung out at the West Roosevelt Avenue. Later in life, other influences took hold in his music, including Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith.