Blues legend Denise LaSalle dies at 78

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Renowned R&B singer Denise LaSalle died Monday.

Born Ora Denise Allen, Denise LaSalle thrilled audiences for more than 50 years with her soulful voice.

Monday night, the blues legend sang her last note, passing away at age 78 with her daughter Bridgette Wolfe-Edwards by her side.

"She was like the person I could turn to for advice, relationship problems and all that," Bridgette said. "She was my rock."

LaSalle began her career singing gospel in her church in Mississippi but was best known for "Trapped by a Thing Called Love." The 1971 hit reached the top of the R&B charts.

The icon recorded many of her songs in Memphis, even living in the Bluff City for a couple of years.

"She loved Memphis," Bridgette said. "We loved it."

Last year, Grammy-winning blues legend Bobby Rush performed with the late Denise LaSalle at Memphis' Paradise Entertainment Center.

This Saturday, Rush returns to the same stage but said his dear friend will be missed.

"It's a sad day, but it's a good day because I gave her so much, she gave me so much love and we knew each other so long," Rush said. "How good God can be."

Rush knew LaSalle for 60 years. While Saturday's concert without her will be bitter, it will also be sweet.

"I'm on Cloud 9," Rush said. "Memphis is home away from home for me."

"She's one of the premier soul singers of the history of blues," said Barbara Newman, president and CEO of the Blues Foundation.

Newman said LaSalle's style set her apart.

"She knew how to tell a story," Newman said. "She knew how to sing a song and she knew to engage the entire audience."

Lasalle was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011 but despite health problems that caused her leg to be amputated, she showed few signs of slowing down.

She was also just nominated for Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year.

While her daughter will always cherish her mother's soulful voice, it's her smile she'll always remember

"The love that she showed everyone," Bridgette said. "She had a big heart, a big heart."

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