Chicago blues legend Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater was among a generation of West Side blues guitarists who modernized the blues but kept close ties to its Southern roots.
The Macon Mississippi native died Friday in Skokie from heart failure. He was 83 years old.
Clearwater, born Edward Harrington, dreamed of making a living as a full-time musician when he arrived in Chicago in 1950. His dream came true fairly quickly, as the left-handed guitar singer made a name for himself in clubs across the South and West Sides. He earned his nickname “The Chief” by regularly donning a colorful Native American headdress, an homage to his Cherokee blood.
Clearwater was “proud” to have lived in Skokie for the past 20 years with his family, according his longtime friend and publicist, Lynn Orman Weiss. He loved the village so much he just penned a song called “Skokie A First Class Town.”
Over the last 67 years, Clearwater’s released 20 albums, played thousands of shows and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
The Morning Shift sat down with Eddy Clearwater last October ahead of a special performance at the Logan Center for the Arts called Bringing the Blues Back to the South Side.
“I like being down to Earth. I like treating other people the way I’d like to be treated, you know. I just like to get along in the world and hope the world would be a better place if people had a better attitude,” he said in conversation with Tony Sarabia. “It’s a better way to live your life.”
Clearwater performed his last show on May 19 at Buddy Guy’s Legends in the South Loop — Ronnie Baker Brooks will join Clearwater’s band for a tribute set at that same venue on Friday.
“I am so saddened by the loss of Eddy Clearwater. He was like an uncle to me,” Brooks said in a statement.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday at Chicago Jewish Funerals in Skokie. Fans may leave tribute notes at www.ChicagoJewishFunerals.com.