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Koko Taylor, blues singer

Koko Taylor sings at the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Chicago in January 2005.  (File Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Koko Taylor sings at the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Chicago in January 2005. (File Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

Chicago – Koko Taylor, a sharecropper’s daughter whose regal bearing and powerful voice earned her the sobriquet “Queen of the Blues,” has died after complications from surgery. She was 80.

Taylor died Wednesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital about two weeks after having surgery for a gastrointestinal bleed.

Taylor’s career stretched more than five decades. While she did not have widespread mainstream success, she was revered and beloved by blues aficionados, and earned worldwide acclaim for her work, which including the best-selling song “Wang Dang Doodle” and tunes such as “What Kind of Man is This” and “I Got What It Takes.”

“What a loss to the blues world,” said Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy. “She was one of the last of the greats of Chicago and really did what she could to keep the blues alive here, like I’m trying to do now.”

In the course of her career, Taylor was nominated seven times for Grammy awards and won in 1984.

Bernard Barker, Watergate figure

Miami – Bernard Leon Barker, one of the five Watergate burglars whose break-in led to America’s biggest political scandal, died Friday in suburban Miami. He was 92.

The Cuban-born former CIA operative who also participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion died at his home after being taken to the Veterans Administration Medical Center the night before. He appeared to have died from complications of lung cancer, and he had also suffered from heart problems.

Barker was one of five men who broke into the Watergate building in Washington on June 17, 1972. A piece of tape used by the burglars to cover the lock to a stairwell door was noticed by a security guard, setting in motion events that would topple Richard M. Nixon’s presidency.

While the national spotlight faded from the burglars over the past few decades, their deed was never forgotten. Barker lamented the infamy of his crime in a 1997 interview with the Associated Press.

“I think it’s time that people forgot the whole damn thing,” Barker said at the time. “That was a sad time.”

Shih Kien, Hong Kong actor

Hong Kong – Veteran Hong Kong actor Shih Kien, who played Bruce Lee’s archrival in the 1973 movie “Enter the Dragon,” has died at age 96.

“With his death, Hong Kong has lost an outstanding performing arts talent,” Acting Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So said in a statement.

Shih died Wednesday at a Hong Kong hospital. The cause was kidney failure.

Shih made his film debut in 1940 and went on to act in about 350 films, most notably playing villains in films about Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hong, according to Ming Pao.

He was best known to Western audiences for playing the evil martial arts expert Han in “Enter the Dragon.” In the movie, Lee’s character is hired by a foreign government to infiltrate Han’s island and seeks to avenge his sister’s death by Han’s bodyguard.


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