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5. Magic Sam

| March 31, 2008

The 20 All-Time Greatest Chicago Guitarists

magic sam

One of the great what-ifs of blues history. Many a musician met a premature demise (frequently at their own hands), but fate was especially cruel to Samuel Gene Maghett. Struck down by a heart attack just months after a star turn at the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival, the 32-year-old trailblazer passed just as he had shaken off an uneven youth. Along with Otis Rush and Buddy Guy, Magic Sam turned the West Side upside down, engraving a new sound – elegant, wild, everything – on two albums frequently ranked among the blues’ all-time greats, West Side Soul and Black Magic. What he had wasn’t necessarily flash (though he had that in spades, too), but a concoction massaging the silk that would flow out of Curtis Mayfield’s fingers up in Cabrini into the hard electric sound that made Chicago the blues’ epicenter. Few artists ever come up with two masterworks like West Side Soul and Black Magic. That Sam was undeniably on the cusp of something even greater makes our loss all the more gutting.

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Features, Monthly

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