Feb 12, 2017: Al Jarreau, Jazz and R&B Vocal Great—Obituary

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Al Jarreau (Photo by Joe Gordon, from Jarreau’s website)

Seven-time Grammy-winning jazz and R&B singer Al Jarreau died February 12, 2017, in Los Angeles at the age of 76, of respiratory failure. Jarreau had been ill in recent days and was in a hospital, being treated for exhaustion, at the time of his death. Just two days earlier, Jarreau announced that he was retiring from live performance. He had experienced respiratory and cardiac issues in recent years.

Born Alwin Lopez-Jarreau in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 12, 1940, Jarreau had remained an active performer up until the time of his death.

In his twenties, Jarreau relocated to Los Angeles and began singing in clubs. He released his first album, We Got By, in 1975 and two years later won his first Grammy. He would eventually win Grammys in the jazz, pop and R&B categories, the only vocalist to win in all three. In 1981, he had the top 10 album Breakin’ Away, which included the hit “We’re in This Love Together,” a number 15 single. He also sang the theme song for TV’s Moonlighting.

Jarreau’s final recording, My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke, was released in 2014 on Concord Records. The album, which re-interpreted some of the late keyboardist’s catalog of post-bop, jazz-fusion, R&B and Brazilian jazz, spent two weeks at #1 on Billboard‘s Contemporary Jazz Albums and Current Jazz charts.

He was one of 21 soloists on the 1985 recording of “We Are the World.”

Al Jarreau at a cafe in Istanbul in 2013 (Photo: Jeff Tamarkin; used with permission)

Here’s a portion of a notice that was posted on Jarreau’s website.

“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.”

Watch the video for Al Jarreau’s “We’re in This Love Together”

Related: 2017 was a stunning year of loss

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