Blues legend Denise LaSalle passes away at 78

A look back at the life of the Mississippi-born singer-songwriter with roots in West Tennessee

JACKSON, Tenn. — What would the blues have been without the “Queen of the Blues,” Denise LaSalle. She passed away Monday at 78 years old after years of health issues.

Having roots in the Hub City where she lived, some of her memorabilia can be found at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville.

“She’s been here for a while and we really consider her a West Tennessee girl,” said center director Sonia Outlaw-Clark. “That’s one of the reasons why we feature her in our music museum, because she’s had such an influence on the music industry.”

LaSalle even performed in a local band alongside Jackson native Joseph McKinney. McKinney even considered her a sister and was saddened by her death.

“We’ve always been kind of close,” McKinney said. “Last time we talked was just before she went in the hospital. She was writing some material that she wanted me to come out and help her with the music, and we didn’t get a chance to do that.”

He recalls one memory of them performing together at a blues fest in California and how she always loved to be on stage performing.

“Denise put on a super show, but that’s how she was. She never came out and half did what she did,” McKinney said. “Her whole heart was in it. She wanted to be the best that she can be.”

Along with her personality and kind spirit, she’ll always be remembered for her voice.

“I would like for people to remember her as a very loving person, very dedicated to the craft of music,” McKinney said.

LaSalle was married to local businessman James “Super” Wolfe. There is not yet word on funeral arrangements.

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