Jazz Legend Al Jarreau, who won seven Grammys in a career spanning over five decades, passed away at a Los Angeles Hospital on Sunday, February 12. He was 76.
Jarreau was hospitalized for exhaustion on February 8, forcing him to cancel all of his remaining tour dates and ultimately retire from touring. While Jarreau’s precise cause of death is not yet known, TMZ reports he had battled respiratory and cardiac issues in recent years. When he passed at approximately 6am PT this morning, Jarreau was surrounded by family and friends.
Born in Milwaukee, WI on March 12, 1940, Jarreau started singing at just four-years-old alongside his mother, who was a church pianist. His passion for vocal work continued throughout his education, which includes a Master’s Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation from the University of Iowa. After moving to San Francisco in 1965 to work as rehabilitation counselor, he met keys master George Duke at a jam session was soon invited to moonlight with the George Duke Trio.
His experience with George Duke laid the foundation for a career that would inspire countless vocalists and musicians to experiment with electronically synthesized percussion and rhythms, and propel scat singing into mainstream consciousness.
Jarreau’s 1981 album Breakin’ Away, which features one of his best-known songs “We’re In This Love Together,” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 before spending two full years in the charts. The song remains a staple at weddings all around the world, even to this day.
Jarreau’s last album ‘My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke’ was released in 2014 and serves as a tribute to his long-time friend George Duke, who passed away a year before the album’s release in 2013.
Jarreau is survived by his wife, Susan, and his son, Ryan. In lieu of gifts or flowers, Jarreau’s family is requesting fans consider donating to the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music. Jarreau received a lifetime achievement award from the Foundation in October 2016.
Jarreau’s publicist Joe Gordon confirmed news of his passing on AlJarreau.com. Read the full announcement below:
Al Jarreau passed away today, February 12, 2017. He will be missed.
A few days ago, I was asked to describe Al to someone who knew of his success, but did not know him as a person. I responded with this:
His 2nd priority in life was music. There was no 3rd. His 1st priority, far ahead of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need. 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.
A few things I think he would want mentioned right now: To Al’s wife, son, sister, brothers, and family: You allowed Al to share himself with the world. He was grateful that you gave him that gift. He knew it was difficult, and regretted that more than he could explain. Please know that your gift was to us, too, and that we are also grateful. To everyone who attended his concerts, and listened to his albums: He needed you, and you always were there for him, for more than 50 years. He was thankful for you every day, and did his best to show that to each of you. To his band, and to the many, many talented musicians, writers, composers, and arrangers who played and collaborated with Al over the years: You enabled, supported, and thrilled him. He treasured you, and considered you brilliant. He loved sharing the stage with you, and was honored that you shared it with him.
To each promoter, presenter, and producer: Thank you for your faith in him. Your commitment to Al was both essential and endless, and he never took you for granted. To his agents, managers, crew, counselors, publicists, and journalists who supported his work, and also to all of the airline, hotel, venue, and other people who hosted him like royalty: He noticed every bit of the dedication and effort that you unselfishly provided, without limits. And, he appreciated you completely.
To young people everywhere, especially the musicians he was grateful to meet at school workshops, musical competitions, residencies, and at concerts: From you, Al asks a favor. Please find any artistic thing that you can do with passion, and do it. With art in your life, you will be a better family member, neighbor, friend, and citizen.
Finally, to Al Jarreau: Thank you Al, from all of us. You completed your ministry in a beautiful and gracious way. Godspeed… you’ve earned it.