Tributes paid to legendary Minneapolis musician Willie Murphy, dead at 75

The R&B and soul musician had complications from pneumonia.
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Legendary Twin Cities blues musician Willie Murphy has died at the age of 75.

The Star Tribune's music writer Chris Riemenschneider reports that Murphy, who he described as a "celebrated singer, songwriter, producer, bandleader and all-out ringleader," died on Sunday from complications of pneumonia.

Murphy, one of three charter members of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame alongside Prince and Bob Dylan, rose to prominence in the 1960s as part of the Minneapolis West Bank neighborhood music scene that also churned out Dylan and "Spider" John Koerner.

He went on to collaborate with Koerner on the acclaimed 1969 album Running, Jumping, Standing Still, before going on to produce Bonnie Raitt's 1971 self-titled debut album for Warner Bros. Records.

Murphy was best known as the singer and pianist for R&B/soul group Willie and the Bees during the '70s and '80s.

While he struggled with ill health over the past year, he recovered to the point he was able to release his last album, A Shot of Love in a Time of Need, in November.

His death has prompted an outpouring of tributes to the legendary music man.

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"Willie was amazing. Watching him play was a gift," said former St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman, adding: "He could do it all. I once dreamed I would get good enough on guitar that I could sit in on one of his jam session. Pipe dream. We booked him for a reception with a group of City leaders from across the country. Within minutes, everyone was up and dancing. That's no small feat. We will miss him."

Iron Range musician Paul Metsa called Murphy "the Godfather of the Minneapolis music scene" who is "simply irreplaceable."

He also had this cool tale about the time Bob Dylan spent some time at Murphy's house in the '80s.

Here's a clip from the Bees reuniting for a gig at the Cabooze in 2014.

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