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R.I.P. Otis Clay, Soul Singer of the ’60s and ’70s

The Grammy-nominated singer died of a heart attack early last night

picture-22979-1414617206Andrew Unterberger // January 9, 2016

Chicago R&B singer Otis Clay died last night, Billboard reports. “Heart & Soul artist management is very sad to announce Otis Clay passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack in the early evening of January 8, 2016,” reads a post on Clay’s Facebook page. “Our hearts are broken. Please keep the Clay family in your prayers.” He was 73.

Born in Mississippi in 1942, Clay would eventually settle in Chicago as a teenager. He started as a gospel singer, but transitioned to secular soul music in the mid-’60s. He had a number of minor R&B hits in the late ’60s and ’70s, including “That’s How It Is (When You’re in Love),” “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You” (eventually covered by Bob Seger) and his cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About a Mover,” which was his only single to grace the Billboard Hot 100.

His most famous song might be 1980’s disco jam “The Only Way Is Up,” which became much better known in 1988 as a chart-topping dance-pop smash for Yazz and the Plastic Population. In the early ’00s, he received a brief career boost thanks to the band Cornershop, who titled a song after him on their 2000 album (under the Clinton alias) Disco and the Halfway to Discontent, and featured his vocals on “Heavy Soup,” the opening track on 2002’s Handcream for a Generation.

Listen to some of Clay’s best-remembered songs here.

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