There aren’t many singers whose musical touch can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, but when Woody Cotton thinks of that elite group, he knows his sister belongs.
“She touched people with her singing,” he said. “She touched a lot of people.”
Linda Cotton, whose voice was legend in New Mexico, passed away Thanksgiving Day, apparently of a heart attack. She was 55.
“I’ve heard her sing all her life,” said her brother. “Everyone who knows her, including myself, will miss her.”
It won’t be just her voice they miss. Yes, her jazz, blues, funk and gospel singing style made her one of New Mexico’s most recognizable musicians, but behind the voice was a compassionate person taking care of her community.
“She was so concerned about the women and children who stayed with us at the Barrett House,” says Jill Criswell, director of development with the Barrett Foundation, a nonprofit helping homeless women and children. Cotton served on the nonprofit’s board for more than four years.
“She could cut through the nonsense of any argument or any conversation,” Criswell said, “and get right to the core of what needed to be done to care for the less fortunate.”
Criswell, who had worked with Cotton on the board since 2005, wanted her kids to see the singer perform this weekend. She wanted them to hear the voice she had heard at the nonprofit’s annual fund-raiser. She wanted them to hear the voice she says could give you shivers when it tackled gospel music.
“Her musicality was beyond question,” Criswell said. “You always knew you were going to hear some great music and see a wonderful personality.”
A wonderful personality, Cotton’s brother said, that was marked by a concern for others.
She loved animals, he said, and he still needs to find homes for two of his sister’s four dogs.
The two of them planned a trip to Colorado to visit nieces. They were also thinking about a family reunion, but he was busy, and she was sick.
In 2002, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. A heart attack was apparently what ended her life Thursday.
Woody Cotton said he is his sister’s only close survivor. Services are pending.
Despite her health problems, Woody Cotton says his sister once performed a day after going to the hospital.
He remembers her voice as “enchanting.” It was a voice heard with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, heard at the Outpost Performance Space, heard in clubs and concert halls statewide for 25 years.
“She touched me and a lot of people with her voice,” he says. “That was her outlet.”