10 Best Koko Taylor Songs: A Must-Have Playlist for Blues Enthusiasts

Koko Taylor, also known as the “Queen of the Blues”, was a renowned American singer known for her powerful and mesmerizing voice. Her songs have left an indelible mark on the blues genre and continue to captivate listeners even today. With a career spanning over four decades, Koko Taylor recorded numerous essential songs that have become celebrated classics within the realm of blues music.

Among her most notable tracks are “Wang Dang Doodle,” “I’m a Woman,” “Voodoo Woman,” “I’ve Got What It Takes,” and “I’d Rather Go Blind.” These hits not only showcase her remarkable vocal talent but also her ability to convey raw emotions through her music. Winning more Blues Music Awards than any other female artist, Koko Taylor’s songs remain an influential and essential part of the blues canon, serving as an inspiration to aspiring musicians and a testament to her enduring legacy.

Early Life and Discovery of Koko Taylor

Koko Taylor, born as Cora Ann Walton on September 28, 1928, grew up in a time of immense struggle in her life. Her parents had passed away by the time she was 11 years old, compelling her and her five siblings to work in cotton fields for survival. Even with their challenging circumstances, music played a prominent role in their lives as they would occasionally sing gospel tunes together.

In the mid-1950s, Taylor decided to chase her dreams and moved to Chicago, where she began her journey in the world of blues music. She started singing in various blues clubs across the city, captivating audiences with her powerful, raw vocals. Her fate turned around when the renowned blues singer and musician, Willie Dixon, discovered her while performing in one of these clubs.

Owing to Willie Dixon’s guidance and help, Taylor landed a record deal in 1963 and released her first single, “Chicago Blues.” This significant development marked the beginning of her career as the “Queen of the Blues” and established her unique position in the blues genre. Over the years, her music encompassed various blues styles, including Chicago blues, electric blues, rhythm and blues, and soul blues, making her an influential figure in the world of music.

Career Breakthrough and ‘I Got What It Takes’

Koko Taylor, sometimes referred to as “The Queen of the Blues”, was known for her powerful and rough vocals. Born Cora Ann Walton in 1928, she established her career in Chicago blues, electric blues, rhythm and blues, and soul blues genres.

In 1975, Taylor released her breakthrough album I Got What It Takes which showcased her unique sound and talent within the blues world. The album earned her a Grammy nomination, further solidifying her status as a blue. As her music gained popularity among blues enthusiasts, she went on to release The Earthshaker in 1978. Songs like “I’m a Woman” and “Hey Bartender” from these albums became new standards in the blues genre, receiving widespread acclaim.

I Got What It Takes was reissued in 2022 as Vinyl Me, Please’s February Classics Album. The selection was part of an initiative aimed at preserving and promoting classic albums in the soul, blues, and jazz genres. The reissue came with remastered audio from the original source and a Listening Notes booklet, further honoring Taylor’s impact on the blues community.

Throughout her career, Koko Taylor received numerous accolades and awards, including several Blues Music Awards and an induction into the Blues Hall of Fame. Her influence and contributions to the blues genre remain significant, as I Got What It Takes continues to be celebrated and admired by fans.

Working with Willie Dixon

Creation of ‘Wang Dang Doodle’

Koko Taylor’s collaboration with legendary blues musician and songwriter Willie Dixon played a significant role in her career. Dixon, known for his mastery in songwriting and production, helped Taylor create some of her most memorable songs. Among them, “Wang Dang Doodle” remains one of the standout tracks from their partnership.

‘Wang Dang Doodle,’ written by Dixon, became a hit single for Koko Taylor, which ultimately brought her into the limelight. Taylor’s powerful voice and Dixon’s evocative lyrics made the song an instant blues classic. The song managed to make the world take notice of a female blues singer, and played a crucial role in paving the path for her illustrious career.

Working closely with Dixon, who had a substantial influence on Chicago blues, not only helped Taylor hone her skills as a performer but also introduced her to other talented and influential musicians in the industry. Taylor’s association with Dixon proved to be beneficial, as she eventually won more Blues Music Awards than any other female artist.

Koko Taylor and Chicago Blues

Koko Taylor, born as Cora Anna Walton, was an influential figure in the world of Chicago Blues. Throughout her career, she became known as the “Queen of Chicago Blues,” due to her powerful voice and passionate performances.

Taylor’s signature sound incorporated elements from various genres like electric blues, rhythm and blues, and soul-blues. She helped continue the tradition of big-voiced, brassy female blues singers, reminiscent of earlier legends such as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Big Mama Thornton, and Memphis Minnie.

Some of Koko Taylor’s Essential Songs are:

  1. Wang Dang Doodle – This blues classic showcases Taylor’s vivacious stage presence and her powerful voice. You can listen to it on Apple Music.
  2. I’m a Woman – A spirited anthem that celebrates women’s strength, resilience, and independence.
  3. Born Under a Bad Sign (feat. Buddy Guy) – A collaboration with Chicago blues guitarist Buddy Guy, which highlights the darker side of the blues genre.
  4. Love You Like a Woman – A stirring ballad that displays the deep emotion and passion present in Koko Taylor’s music.

Koko Taylor contributed greatly to the rich history and ongoing legacy of the Chicago Blues scene. Her unique style and powerful voice have inspired many musicians and upheld the traditions of the genre. Fans of Koko Taylor can delve deeper into her music by exploring playlists such as Best of Koko Taylor, or discovering performances on platforms like YouTube.

The ‘Earthshaker’ Album

The ‘Earthshaker’ album, released in 1978, is one of Koko Taylor’s most iconic works that solidifies her status as a blues legend. Many of the songs on the album became blues standards, further cementing her presence in the blues genre. Some of the most famous songs from the album are “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Spoonful,” “Walking the Back Streets,” and “Hey Bartender.”

The album comprises a mix of emotionally charged songs and powerful, energetic tracks that showcase Koko Taylor’s unique voice and passion for the blues. The record features a total of nine tracks, each embodying the spirit of classic blues while reflecting Koko Taylor’s personal style and interpretation.

Koko Taylor’s performance in ‘Earthshaker’ not only resonated with blues enthusiasts but also gained critical acclaim from various sources. As a result, her career trajectory continued to soar, leading to a number of accolades and Grammy nominations in subsequent years.

In summary, ‘The Earthshaker’ stands tall as a testament to Koko Taylor’s immense talent and contribution to the world of blues music. From powerful ballads to lively, foot-tapping tunes, the album offers a diverse range of tracks that showcase the depths of the artist’s musical versatility and prowess.

Legacy as the ‘Queen of the Blues’

Koko Taylor, widely known as the Queen of the Blues, played a significant role in the blues music industry. With her powerful voice and undeniable talent, Taylor earned more Blues Music Awards than any other female artist.

Her prominent career’s accolades include awards she won and her unforgettable songs. Here are 10 essential songs from Koko Taylor that showcase her unique style and unforgettable voice.

  1. Wang Dang Doodle – This song made the world take notice of Koko Taylor and helped establish her as a leading female blues singer.
  2. I’m a Woman – A powerful and fierce song that highlights Taylor’s robust vocal abilities.
  3. Voodoo Woman – An eerie and captivating tune that showcases her versatility as an artist.
  4. I’ve Got What It Takes – A confident and empowering song that reinforces her strong presence in the industry.
  5. I’d Rather Go Blind – Taylor’s heartfelt rendition of the classic tune has made it an emblematic part of her repertoire.

These are just a few examples of Koko Taylor’s contributions to the blues music genre. Her talent and distinctive style left a significant impact on both her contemporaries and the generations that followed.

Beyond her music, tributes from other artists demonstrate the respect and influence that Taylor held within the industry. Shemekia Copeland and Susan Tedeschi, two talented singers who followed in her footsteps, are among those who have acknowledged her inspiration and influence on their own careers.

In conclusion, Koko Taylor’s role as the “Queen of the Blues” is well-deserved and celebrated. Her groundbreaking career set a precedent for female blues artists and continues to inspire new generations today.

Taylor’s Signature Powerful Vocals

Koko Taylor, often referred to as the “Queen of the Blues,” was renowned for her powerful vocals that encompassed a wide range of blues styles, from Chicago blues to soul-blues. Taylor’s unique voice and commanding stage presence allowed her to create some of the most unforgettable blues songs.

Some of her essential tracks include the following:

  • “Wang Dang Doodle”
  • “I’m a Woman”
  • “Voodoo Woman”
  • “I’ve Got What It Takes”
  • “I’d Rather Go Blind”

These songs not only showcase Taylor’s exceptional vocal abilities, but also highlight her strong emotional connection to the music. For instance, her single “Wang Dang Doodle” brought attention to female blues singers when it crossed over to the pop charts and became a popular song among various artists.

Taylor’s impact on the blues scene can be attributed to both her distinctive vocal style and her ability to express raw emotion through song. Close listeners can clearly perceive the passion and heartache present in her voice, especially in songs like “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

Throughout her career, Koko Taylor received numerous accolades and awards, including more Blues Music Awards than any other female artist. Her signature powerful vocals, combined with her memorable and emotionally charged songs, have undoubtedly solidified her place as an iconic figure in blues history.

Popular Song: ‘Hey Bartender’

Koko Taylor, a well-known female blues singer, truly captivated her audience with the song “Hey Bartender”. The song is highly regarded among Koko Taylor’s fans and became a new standard in her genre. Along with other hits like “Wang Dang Doodle,” “I’m a Woman,” “Voodoo Woman,” “I’ve Got What It Takes,” and “I’d Rather Go Blind,” it showcased her powerful vocals and immense talent.

“Hey Bartender” appears on various albums, including Blues Deluxe, which was released in 1980. This memorable track has been featured on several playlists, such as Koko Taylor Essentials on Apple Music, where it can be easily enjoyed by blues enthusiasts.

Koko Taylor’s rendition of “Hey Bartender” can also be found in one of her captivating live performances. Recorded at Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois, during the Chicagofest Blues Deluxe Stage on August 1-17, 1980, this performance truly highlights her strength as a live performer and her powerful connection with her audience.

In summary, Koko Taylor’s “Hey Bartender” is one of her most popular and essential songs. It not only showcases her extraordinary vocal abilities but also her ability to connect with her fans through passionate and engaging live performances.

Contribution to Blues Genre

Koko Taylor, often dubbed the “Queen of the Blues,” made significant contributions to the blues genre throughout her career. She gained fame with her powerful voice, unique stage presence, and a diverse catalog of songs. One of her most well-known tracks is “Wang Dang Doodle”, which helped put female blues singers on the map.

Taylor’s music was deeply rooted in the Chicago blues style. This specific blues subgenre rose to prominence in the mid-20th century and is characterized by its urban, electric sound that defied traditional acoustic blues. Koko Taylor’s influence in the genre is evident, as her songs captured the essence of Chicago blues with their strong rhythms, powerful vocals, and electric guitar accompaniments.

Here is a brief list of some essential Koko Taylor songs that showcase her impact on the blues genre:

  1. Wang Dang Doodle
  2. I’m a Woman
  3. Voodoo Woman
  4. I’ve Got What it Takes
  5. I’d Rather Go Blind

Not only was Taylor an influential musician and performer, but she also played a vital role in the popularization of blues music globally. Her success opened doors for many aspiring female blues artists and helped cement the genre as a staple of American music.

Notably, Koko Taylor’s contributions to the blues genre have been well-recognized. She has won more Blues Music Awards than any other female artist, further solidifying her status as a true blues legend.

In summary, Koko Taylor’s powerful voice, commanding stage presence, and extensive catalog of unforgettable songs have left an indelible mark on the blues genre, specifically in the realm of Chicago blues. Her legacy continues to inspire and influence artists from all around the world.


Koko Taylor, also known as the “Queen of the Blues,” was an influential figure in the Chicago blues scene. Her powerful vocals captivated audiences and made her a force to be reckoned with. As she gained popularity, Taylor became known for her distinctive voice and memorable hits.

One of her most famous songs, “Wang Dang Doodle”, was written by Willie Dixon and showcases Taylor’s strong vocals. This song went on to become a highlight in her career, allowing her to stand out within the blues genre.

Taylor’s album, “I Got What It Takes,” received a Grammy nomination and solidified her status as a blues icon. Her 1978 album, “The Earthshaker”, continued to showcase her incredible talent and powerful voice. These albums featured songs like “I’m a Woman” and “Hey Bartender”, which went on to become celebrated standards in the blues genre.

Throughout her career, Koko Taylor won numerous awards and accolades, proving herself as an essential figure in the history of blues music. If you are looking to discover more about this influential artist, you can immerse yourself in her discography, which is filled with a wide range of powerful songs that showcase Taylor’s incredible talent. Her undeniable prowess as a blues singer shall forever remain an essential part of the genre’s history.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some must-listen songs from Koko Taylor’s discography?

Some essential songs from Koko Taylor’s discography include “Wang Dang Doodle”, “I’m a Woman”, “Voodoo Woman”, “I’ve Got What It Takes”, and “I’d Rather Go Blind.” These songs showcase her powerful vocals and blues style.

Which albums of Koko Taylor should I check out first?

You can start with Koko Taylor’s self-titled album “Koko Taylor” and her Grammy-winning album “Queen of the Blues.” These albums are a great introduction to her music and will give you a taste of her unique blues style.

What is Koko Taylor’s connection to Alligator Records?

Koko Taylor was one of the key artists on the Alligator Records label, which helped her build her career and gain recognition in the blues world. She released multiple albums under Alligator Records, contributing to their success as well.

What was Koko Taylor’s most influential song?

“Wang Dang Doodle” is often considered Koko Taylor’s most influential song. Released in 1965, this blues classic, written by Willie Dixon, became a staple in Taylor’s repertoire and gained immense popularity, showcasing her raw vocal style and infectious energy.

What is the significance of Koko Taylor’s album ‘Force of Nature’?

“Force of Nature” is one of Koko Taylor’s later albums, released in 1993. The album demonstrates Taylor’s continued growth and evolution as an artist, featuring a mix of blues, rock, and soul sounds. The album received critical acclaim, further cementing her status as a blues legend.

Which Koko Taylor songs best showcase her blues style?

Koko Taylor’s songs that best showcase her blues style include “Wang Dang Doodle”, “I’m a Woman,” and “Love You Like a Woman.” These tracks capture the essence of her powerful vocals, raw energy, and bluesy sound that fans and critics alike have come to love.

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