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Johnny Otis dies aged 90

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Johnny Otis, the musician, bandleader, songwriter, who was often called “the godfather of rhythm and blues,” died on January 17.He was 90.


Best known for the track Willie and the Hand Jive, later covered by Eric Clapton and others he also wrote Every Beat of My Heart, a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1961.


Otis, who was born to Greek-American parents, grew up in a predominately black community in Berkeley in California, listening to blues, gospel and swing, and had a deep connection to black culture. He discovered Etta James and Little Richard.

“Genetically, I’m pure Greek, psychologically, environmentally, culturally, by choice, I’m a member of the black community.”said Otis, who changed his birth name from John Veliotes.

He is one of the greatest talents of American music and he was a great American," said music historian Tom Reed, adding "He could do it all."


Last modified on Friday, 15 August 2014 12:41

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