Hundreds attend dedication of a 10-story mural for bluesman Muddy Waters
The city of Chicago had a tribute June 8, 2017, to a Muddy Waters mural that included his relatives and a tribute band. (Alexandra Wimley / Chicago Tribune)
Anyone traveling near State and Randolph streets at noontime Thursday no doubt heard the pulsing thump of electric guitar-flavored blues music vibrating throughout the Loop as city officials and relatives of the late Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters commemorated a towering mural in his honor.
A tribute band featuring two of Waters’ sons, Mud and Big Bill Morganfield, played to hundreds of people and a dozen of his surviving relatives in Block 37, kitty-corner from the colorful 10-story mural of the blues great on a building at 17 N. State St. The mural was created over two weeks in May 2016 by a team of artists led by Brazilian Eduardo Kobra.
Kobra, Waters’ daughter, Mercy Morganfield, and several others spoke during the mural’s dedication, which also kicked off the three-day Chicago Blues Festival, which starts Friday at Millennium Park.
Mark Kelly, commissioner of the the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, gave a rousing introduction. He told the crowd that the mural, at last, offers recognition of the city’s black musical roots, which helped shape all modern music.
"This iconic image at the center of Chicago is about Muddy, but it’s also about the entire black music tradition in Chicago," Kelly said before rattling off local names from Howlin’ Wolf to Herbie Hancock. "It’s about the power of Chicago’s black music traditions, which has changed the world."
Born McKinley Morganfield in the Mississippi Delta in 1915, Waters — who moved to Chicago in 1943 — was credited with fusing Delta blues with an electric guitar sound, inspiring rock stars like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. He died at his Westmont home in 1983 at age 68.