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via BBC News

Johnny Otis, dubbed the “godfather of rhythm and blues”, has died aged 90.

The bandleader, who had been unwell for several years, passed away at his home in Los Angeles, his manager said.

Best known for the track Willie and the Hand Jive, he also wrote Every Beat of My Heart, a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1961.

“He is one of the greatest talents of American music and he was a great American,” said music historian Tom Reed, adding “He could do it all.”

Otis, who was born to Greek-American parents, grew up in a predominately black community in Berkeley in California, listening to blues, gospel and swing.

“As a kid, I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be black or white, I would be black,” said Otis, who changed his birth name from John Veliotes.

Otis worked as a radio DJ and became heavily involved in the civil rights movement, writing about both in his 1968 book Listen to the Lambs.

He continued to tour well into his 70s, while also becoming an ordained minister and organic farmer. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

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