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Blues legend Hemphill dies at 72

July 25, 2006 at 9:48 PM

MEMPHIS, July 25 (UPI) -- Mississippi native Jessie Mae Hemphill, founder of country blues, has died in Memphis at the age of 72 from complications related to an infection.

Known as a strong woman who donated much of her life to creating her own unique style of blues and helping those in need in her neighborhood, Hemphill died on Saturday at the Memphis Regional Medical Center, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported.

"She was an extraordinary lady and creative as a composer and a stylist deeply rooted in tradition going back to her aunts and grandfather and great-grandfather," said University of Memphis blues scholar David Evans.

Hemphill, the granddaughter of famous fife master Sid Hemphill, began her career by playing over 20 years in Memphis on Beale Street before releasing three professional albums and winning three W.C. Handy Awards for her efforts.

Slowed by a crippling stroke in 1993, Hemphill rarely performed but created a non-profit foundation to help the underprivileged and released a final album, "Dare You To Do It Again," in 2004, the newspaper said.

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