THE LOOP — City officials dedicated a 100-foot-tall mural of Muddy Waters on Thursday, saying the "raucous, rumbling" sound of the legendary Chicago bluesman electrified the world.
The dedication ceremony Thursday afternoon near State and Washington streets ushered in this year's Chicago Blues Festival, which opens Friday in its new home at Millennium Park.
The 10-story mural at 17 N. State St., which has been up for more than a year, symbolizes the city's renewed effort to embrace its "black music tradition," said Mark Kelly, commissioner of the city's department of cultural affairs and special events.
Waters was a Mississippi sharecropper who moved north and perfected the electric blues of Chicago during the 1940s and '50s. His songs such as "Rollin' Stone" and "Mannish Boy" are viewed as the foundational link between the acoustic Delta blues and rock 'n' roll. The Rolling Stones named themselves after the Waters song.
"So Vienna has its Mozart, a gift to the world. Chicago has its Muddy and it’s a gift to the world," Kelly said.
The Muddy Waters Legacy Band, which is led by three of Waters' sons, covered their dad's songs during the ceremony.
The mural was painted by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra, who's known for colorful portraits of other famous figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Bob Marley. Kobra spent more than two weeks painting the mural on State Street, and offered his own praise for Waters at the dedication Thursday.
"With all that Muddy represents, he is a genius," Kobra said through an interpreter.
Kobra has set up a pop-up shop for the next three days in the Virgin Hotel, 203 N. Wabash Ave., that will sell T-shirts and vinyl records. All proceeds will benefit the Muddy Waters Foundation.
Waters, born McKinley Morganfield, has a widespread legacy, but the dedication still stirred the bluesman's family, many of whom attended Thursday's ceremony. Some may have argued Water's recognition was a long time coming, but better late than never.
"My father loved Chicago and I'm so glad Chicago loves him back," Waters' daughter, Mercy Morganfield, said.
The blues festival kicks off at 11:15 a.m. Friday in Millennium Park.