It was a send off fit for a King. On January 16, 2016, the Homegoing celebration for legendary musician Otis Clay was one of the most beautiful services I’ve been to since the passing Richard Pegue.
It was like a who’s who of every entertainer who’s ever performed on stage and on record. Gene Chandler, Cicero Blake, Willie Clayton, Jerry Butler, Theo Huff as well some of Chicago’s famed musical arrangers like Willie Henderson and Gene “Daddy G” Barge. They all came to pay tribute to a man who sang not only R&B music but Gospel Music as well.
Mr. Clay known to the the world over as a Rhythm & Blues singer but remained a humble resident on Chicago’s West Side. Clay being a giving person who never said no to anyone who called upon him. Remember back when a loved one passed he was asked to sing at the funeral of the beloved family matriarch last year. He simply asked “when and where, not how much you gon’ pay me?”
Otis was just that kind of guy, plain old “good folks.” No matter how many Gold albums he received, he remained the same person seen years ago at Alderman JoAnn Thompson’s 63rd Street Festival. Mr. Clay was a Father, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather, cousin, brother and “Uncle” to many.
On January 16, 2016 at the Liberty Baptist Church, many witnessed the power and presence Otis Clay had when he hit the stage. From Willie Clayton, Cicero Blake to newcomer Theo Huff, they all took notes from Otis’ stage performances. For over 3 decades, Otis Clay performed to sold-out crowds in Japan but was only well-known to a few people in the states. He performed on the R&B and Gospel circuits, singing his own songs as well as cover tunes such as Al Green’s “Love & Happiness”, Jackie Moore’s “Precious Precious” and O.V. Wright’s “Nickel & A Nail”. However to all of us at EarHustle411, he will always be remembered for the songs “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” and his signature song, “When The Gates Swing Open”, a song the he sang at the last 4 funerals we attended.
He possessed a powerful voice, a great personality and a stage presence that will be remembered for years to come. EarHustle411 and the writing staff thought to ourselves, “who will sing “When The Gates Swing Open” at Otis Clay’s Homegoing service? Well none other than Otis himself. He closed out his own Homegoing celebration with his recorded voice. The gates have now swung open for one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met…Mr. Otis Clay.
In the words of one of his songs…”trying to live my life without you Otis, it’ll be the hardest thing we’ll even do”!
And that’s how I see it. Until next time…Blue Skies, Green lights and Peace.