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Blues-Rock Singer Kathi McDonald, R.I.P.

By October 7, 2012

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Kathi McDonaldWord comes to us from friend Frank Bandy of TearDrop Records that blues-rock singer Kathi McDonald passed away on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at the age of 64 years. The cause of death has not been reported.

Singing since she was a child, McDonald was only 19 years old when she moved to San Francisco in 1967 to pursue a career in music. She caught the attention of Ike Turner when she was singing as part of the audience in a concert at the famed Winterland club and he invited her to a rehearsal, where she earned a spot singing back-up for Ike & Tina Turner as part of the famed Ikettes. A couple of years later McDonald would also grab the ear of Sam Andrew, who enlisted her as part of Big Brother & the Holding Company, with whom she'd record three albums, including Can't Go Home Again and Be A Brother.

McDonald's work with Big Brother would lead to bigger and better gigs, including a stint touring with Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen and, later, with Leon Russell as part of his Shelter People group. Studio work would follow, McDonald lending her big, soulful voice to recordings by artists as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Delaney & Bonnie, Freddie King, Nils Lofgren, and many more...almost 160 albums in total, a large percentage of which would earn Gold and Platinum sales status.

McDonald launched her solo career with the 1974 release of Insane Asylum, which featured guest stars like guitarists John Cippolina and Ronnie Montrose. Her next effort wouldn't come for 20 years when McDonald released Save Your Breath in 1994, followed relatively closely by the Above and Beyond album in 1999. In the early 1990s, McDonald hooked up with British blues-rock legend Long John Baldry and she would spend the better part of two decades touring and recording with Baldry, recording only sporadically on her own. McDonald's most recent release is Nothin' But Trouble, a collaboration with guitarist Rich Kirch, an alumni of John Lee Hooker's bands.

An enormous talent whose larger-than-life voice brightened up dozens of blues and rock recordings over a career that spanned five decades, Kathi McDonald will be missed.

Photo by Rich Pechtner, courtesy Kathi McDonald


October 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm
(1) Mojo Mike says:

I knew Kathi best from her more recent gigs, playing around the Skagit Valley and generously lending her talents to a variety of good causes. She had an amazing voice and I often wondered why she wasn’t even better known. Luck has something to do with it, but I think it was mostly because she just didn’t have that all-consuming ego. She loved playing with others and had fun sitting and chatting with fans between sets. That’s what seemed to make her happy. I’ll miss her.

October 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm
(2) JT says:

I have played with some great vocalists, but Kathi was the best.
And the wildest . . . . . . but that’s another story.

November 29, 2012 at 5:56 pm
(3) Linda says:

Mojo Mike is right. She did not have that all consuming ego, which is what I think might have kept her from becoming a super famous vocalist. She was fantastic, and a wonderful human being, with exceptional talent. And nowhere in that body of hers was an egotistical bone. I hadn’t seen her in person for many years, but then went to her 62nd birthday bash in 2010. I was expecting the tainted-ness that fame and talent might do to a person over time. No way…this beautiful lady came right out during her intermission and mingled with all of us at the bar. She made all of US feel special. She was a giver…not a taker.

How beautiful is that?

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