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Influential Blues + Jazz Guitarist Pete Cosey Dead at 68

Pete Cosey
Brian Killian, Getty Images

Pete Cosey, who played guitar on some of the most controversial albums ever made by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, has died at age 68 of unknown causes.

According to the Chicago Reader, the news of Cosey’s passing was posted on Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid’s private Facebook page. Cosey was a session musician at blues label Chess Records during the late ’60s, before helping Miles Davis explore jazz-rock fusion in the early ’70s with his pioneering work on landmark albums such as ‘Agharta’ and ‘Get Up With It.’

While at Chess, Cosey contributed to Waters’ controversial late ’60s psychedelic blues albums ‘Electric Mud’ and ‘After the Rain,’ as well as Wolf’s similarly targeted ‘The Howlin’ Wolf Album.’ In an attempt to cross over to a modern rock audience, the albums featured heavy Jimi Hendrix-style production. As AllMusic humorously describes it, some critics considered the effect “as ill-advised as putting Dustin Hoffman into a Star Wars epic.”

Regardless, Cosey’s innovative and creative playing was singled out from any blame. The albums also won more than their fair share of love from fans and peers, including Hendrix and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, who reportedly stated that ‘Electric Mud’ influenced the creation of his band’s song ‘Black Dog.’ That album has also been cited as an early influence on the rhythms of hip-hop music.

In later years, Cosey participated in a wide variety of projects, including work with Reid and Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. He appeared briefly in Martin Scorsese’s 2004 documentary ‘The Blues,’ appropriately enough reuniting with the ‘Electric Mud’ band to record a new song.

Next: See Other Rockers We Lost in 2012

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