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Buffalo soul legend Barbara St. Clair loses battle with cancer

Barbara St Clair
The Buffalo music community has lost a beloved member. Barbara St. Clair, the woman rightly dubbed "Buffalo's Queen of Soul," died on Wednesday at the age of 71, after a long battle with brain cancer. 

St. Clair began her career in the 1960s, as a member of R&B vocal group the Sessions. Later, she formed her own band, Barbara St. Clair & the Pin-Kooshins, and eventually landed as powerhouse vocalist with revered soul/blues outfit the Houserockers. 

St. Clair spent the '80s outside of the music business, concentrating on the education she'd abandoned in favor of performing as a teenager. She returned to the spotlight in the early 90s, fronting the band she would perform with until the end, the Shadows. St. Clair was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 1991.

Shadows bassist and musical director Chris Haug, in a statement posted on Facebook Thursday morning, had this to say about his time with St. Clair.

"It has been my honor to have shared the stage with very special person for over 20 years, and (I'm) humbled that she considered me her band leader. I will never meet a finer singer, a better teacher, a more giving person, or a truer friend. Her voice is that of an angel and her beauty truly radiates from the heart.

"Barb loved performing and she loved her audience equally. Her fans were her friends. It was her nature to care for others. She was always there to do a benefit for a fellow musician or to just listen with compassion and understanding to anyone in need … friend or stranger. Even after she became ill, when Barb and I talked, she would always first ask how my family was doing. She would bring up a memory or two of my daughters, and a difficult conversation would turn into one where we would end up sharing a laugh or two. 

"Sad as today is, I do take much comfort in the outpouring of support from her friends and fans, (one and the same) and from the Buffalo music community, always standing ready to come to the aid of a fellow musician. As much as it hurts we need to believe that Barb is in a better place, heading for better gigs. As a matter of fact, I do believe she will have her pick of gigs now. Look out Etta James ... Barbara St Clair is taking the stage." 

On Sept. 14, friends, fans, and fellow members of the Buffalo music community will gather at the Sportsmen's Tavern, 326 Amherst St., for a St. Clair tribute concerts, proceeds from which will go to the singer's family. The event will be hosted by the Shadows, and will feature guest performances from many of the musicians who performed alongside St. Clair over the years.

- Jeff Miers

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