Snooks Eaglin, R&B Singer and Guitarist, Dies at 72

Published: February 19, 2009

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The R&B singer and guitarist Snooks Eaglin, who counted platinum-selling rockers among his fans, died here Wednesday. He was 72.

The cause was a heart attack he suffered after falling ill and being hospitalized last week, said John Blancher, a family friend. Mr. Eaglin learned he had prostate cancer last year.

Musicians including Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant and Bonnie Raitt would seek out Mr. Eaglin to watch him perform, Mr. Blancher said. But New Orleans musicians knew him best.

“He played with a certain finger style that was highly unusual,” said the pianist Allan Toussaint, who was 13 when he formed a band with Mr. Eaglin. “He was unlimited on the guitar. Folks would assume, ‘I can do this or I can do that,’ but Snooks wouldn’t. There was nothing he couldn’t do. It was extraordinary.”

Mr. Eaglin was scheduled to perform this year at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where he was a popular draw. Quint Davis, the event’s producer, said his death leaves a hole in the festival and also in the city’s music scene.

“His death is like losing a Dizzy Gillespie, a Professor Longhair, a Johnny Adams or a Gatemouth Brown,” Mr. Davis said. “He’s one of those unique giants of New Orleans music.”

Mr. Eaglin was known for picking strings with his thumb nail. He played and recorded with New Orleans musicians including Professor Longhair, the Wild Magnolias and others. Blind from the time he was a young child, Mr. Eaglin was a self-taught musician who learned to play the guitar by listening to the radio. Playing the guitar with his thumb nail allowed him to perform very fast, Mr. Davis said.

One of Mr. Eaglin’s best-known songs was “Funky Malaguena,” a Latin song that he played with an unconventional funk and blues spin, Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Eaglin is part of 50 years’ worth of New Orleans recordings, from early folk to R&B and jazz, Mr. Davis said. “He played a six-string, a 12-string,” he said. “He could play anything with strings on it.”

The jazz bassist Peter Badie, who played with Mr. Eaglin in the 1960s at clubs on Rampart Street, said that “a lot of cats tried to copy him, the way he attacked the strings, but they couldn’t.”

Mr. Eaglin’s survivors include his wife of more than 30 years, Dorothea Eaglin, and a daughter.

Source: NY Times

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Published in: on February 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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