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Legendary Blues Harmonica Player James Cotton Passes Away

March 16, 2017
via Alligator Records

James Cotton, legendary Grammy-winning blues harmonica player who recorded and toured with Muddy Waters and played with countless others, has died at the age of 81, his label Alligator Records reports. The musician had been battling pneumonia and passed away at a Austin, TX hospital.

Cotton was born in Mississippi in 1935 and began playing music early on in life, learning harmonica first from Sonny Boy Williamson II and touring with him and Howlin’ Wolf. Cotton eventually met up with Waters and toured with the legendary bluesman for 12 years, playing on Waters’ iconic At Newport performance in 1960. Cotton would later reconnect with Waters in the late-‘70s.

The harmonica player also recorded under his own name for multiple labels, including his Grammy-winning 1996 album Deep in the Blues. His final stint was with Alligator Records, which put out his last effort, 2013’s Grammy-nominated Cotton Mouth Man.

Cotton was a legend in the blues and the Chicago sound in particular, and the musician was honored by several organizations and festivals later in his life, including his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006. Playing with great blues musicians like Waters, B.B. King, Freddie King and more, along with rock artists like Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Santana, to name a few, Cotton was a integral part of the music world for over seven decades and is widely known as one of the greatest blues harmonica players of all time.