Otis Clay, R&B Singer, Dies at 73
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JAN. 11, 2016
Otis Clay, a rhythm-and-blues singer who was also known for his charitable work in Chicago, died there on Jan. 8. He was 73.
The cause was a heart attack, his daughter, Ronda Tankson, said.
Mr. Clay’s voice ranged from a gruff tenor on songs like “Trying to Live My Life Without You,” a Top 40 R&B hit in 1973, to a haunting baritone on gospel standards like “When the Gates Swing Open.”
“Otis was the last standard-bearer for deep Southern soul music, the really gospel-inflected music that was in its heyday in the late ’60s and early and mid-’70s,” said the singer Billy Price, who collaborated with Mr. Clay on the recent album “This Time for Real.”
A 2013 Blues Hall of Fame inductee, Mr. Clay moved to Chicago from Mississippi in 1957. He had just begun planning a gospel tour of the United States.
Mr. Clay’s charitable works included assisting development of the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Chicago.
Ms. Tankson, a special-education teacher in Chicago, said her father gave little thought to what benefit he would get from performing and held nothing back when appearing for her students.
“He sang to them as if they paid and he was onstage,” she said.
Mr. Clay was born on Feb. 11, 1942, in Waxhaw, Miss., into a musical and religious family, according to his online biography. After his arrival in Chicago, he joined the Golden Jubilaires, and in 1960 he became part of Charles Bridges’s Famous Blue Jay Singers, performing a cappella at schools and hotels.
He made his recording debut in 1965 with the rousing ballad “Flame in Your Heart.” In 2007 he was nominated for a Grammy for the gospel CD “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”