The seven-time Grammy winner Al Jarreau died in a Los Angeles hospital where he was being treated for fatigue. He was 76.
Jarreau was one of those rare artistes to win a Grammy in jazz, pop and R&B categories. He had continuously managed to reach new audiences by seamlessly merging these genres of music and through television. The affable singer died on Sunday, just days after announcing his retirement.
Jarreau grew up in Milwaukee listening to his parents play music in church. He is best known for the singles We’re in This Love Together and After All. Many would be familiar with his voice in the theme to Moonlighting, the hit 1980s television series that brought Bruce Willis to prominence.
Jarreau’s other notable appearances included a prominent role on We Are the World, the 1985 song by a mega-cast of music A-listers to raise money for famine-ravaged Ethiopia.
In a tribute, his manager Joe Gordon described Jarreau as the ultimate gentleman who never stopped appreciating his listeners or the myriad people who worked for him directly or indirectly.
His second priority was music but “his first priority, far ahead of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need,” Gordon wrote on Jarreau’s website.
“Whether it was emotional pain, or physical discomfort, or any other cause of suffering, he needed to put our minds at ease and our hearts at rest. He needed to see a warm, affirming smile where there had not been one before. Song was just his tool for making that happen.”
Jarreau announced last week that he was finished with touring due to exhaustion. He had suffered health issues in recent years and was hospitalized in 2010 for respiratory problems when touring in France.
He died months after being honoured at the White House, when then president Barack Obama celebrated International Jazz Day. His cause of death was not revealed.
Gregory Porter, winning the Grammy today for Best Jazz Vocal Album, called Jarreau “one of the greatest jazz voices that ever lived.” “Jazz is the music of freedom and Al Jarreau epitomized that,” he said.
Soaking up influences as a child
Growing up in Milwaukee, Alwyn Lopez Jarreau sang at church and at school. His mother was a piano teacher who played the organ in the Seventh-Day Adventist church, where his father was a preacher and singer.
But raised in a city with a large German and Eastern European community, Jarreau recalled that he lived near a tavern that played polka and that the radio would play everything from classical to the blues.
“How lucky we were as musicians to have those influences which were really present in our lives. There were no walls then; there are so many walls today,” he told Jazz Times last year.
R.I.P. to Milwaukee's Smoothest Crooners. Grammy-winning musician Al Jarreau dies at 76 https://t.co/M8Y8fyy5U9— Tim Black ™ (@RealTimBlack) February 12, 2017
Backstage, Grammy winner Gregory Porter is talking about the loss today of Al Jarreau. #grammys— Kevin C. Johnson (@kevincjohnson) February 12, 2017
Jarreau would sing in bars in Milwaukee as a teenager. However, he pursued a career not in music but in counselling, earning a degree at Ripon College in Wisconsin and a master’s degree at the University of Iowa.
Banking on his promise as a musician, he headed to the San Francisco area, where he teamed up with acoustic guitarist Julio Martinez.
After several false starts, Jarreau made his big breakthrough in Los Angeles in 1975, when he was invited to perform at the legendary Troubadour club in West Hollywood.
His debut album, We Got By, came in the same year and proved an international hit.
His family requested that mourners make contributions to the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music, which supports young people and which recently honoured Jarreau with a lifetime achievement award.
Jarreau was married twice and had a son. In a 2012 interview with All About Jazz, Jarreau said he still was in awe that he made music for a living.
“To be given that ability to create something where there was nothing before, empty space, and now there’s a song; that’s an amazing gift,” he said.
“There’s nothing more important than that, except maybe creating a life.”
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