Guitarist Johnny Winter died yesterday at the age of 70 in a hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland. The blues legend was overseas to play what turned out to be his final concert — Saturday night at the Lovely Days festival in Wiesen, Austria.
His publicist confirmed the news with a statement declaring that Winter’s “wife, family and bandmates are all saddened by the loss of one of the world’s finest guitarists.’
The cause of Winter’s death has not been revealed, but the acclaimed bluesman had been battling health problems in recent years. Winter — older brother to fellow musician Edgar — rose to national prominence in the late ’60s, after Columbia Records signed him to a contract that reportedly featured the largest advance in the history of the music business to that point.
His 1969 self-titled Columbia debut and 1970′s ‘Second Winter’ established him as a major player on the national scene. A battle with heroin addiction soon derailed his career (he would battle various addictions throughout his life), but he recovered and went on to enjoy an over five decade-long career that was — as his 2014 box set declared — fully devoted and ‘True to the Blues.’
Winter was working hard right up until the end of his life, assembling a star-laden album entitled ‘Step Back‘ that will feature guest spots from peers such as Eric Clapton, ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons and Aerosmith‘s Joe Perry. The album is due for release on Sept. 2.
“I never had the opportunity to jam with him,” Gibbons previously noted. “I was content to remain in awe and admiration without attempting to crowd the stage.”
Hear Johnny Winter Perform ‘I’m Yours and I’m Hers’