(February 12, 2017) We are deeply saddened to inform SoulTrackers that legendary jazz singer Al Jarreau has died, only two weeks after being first hospitalized in Los Angeles due to weakness and shortness of breath. There has been a regular prayer vigil from Jarreau’s millions of fans during the period, but sadly his illness progressed quickly and took him this morning.
The AlJarreau.com website posted the following today:
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.
The famed singer has been known for keeping a busy singing schedule, and had remained incredibly active even into his mid-70s. In fact, he has a relatively full concert schedule planned for 2017.
It is impossible to speak of the emergence of contemporary jazz in the 1980s without pausing a long time to talk about Al Jarreau. One of the most unique vocalists ever in recorded music, Jarreau emerged from an unlikely background to win seven Grammy awards and become one of the most significant singers in the world.
Jarreau began singing at his birth home in Milwaukee and as a teen joined a local group called the Indigos. After college he moved to San Francisco to work in vocational rehabilitation, but found himself continuously drawn to the local jazz scene. By the late 60s he was a regular performer in San Francisco clubs, often working in a trio with future star George Duke. In the early 70s he moved to Los Angeles and became part of the robust music scene there.
Jarreau signed his first recording contract with Warner Brothers in 1975, and had an international smash with his debut album, We Got By. But it was his live album Look To the Rainbow that made him a bona fide star and won for him his first Grammy. Entering the 1980s, he continued to rise as a leader in the contemporary jazz field before seemingly taking over the world with his 1981 crossover album Breaking Away and the smash hit “We’re In This Love Together.”
Over the remainder of the decade Jarreau continued to record popular album after album and issue big hits like “Mornin,” the ballad “After All” and the theme song from the television show Moonlighting. He also continued to stretch his musical boundaries into R&B and pop, working with such production luminaries at Nile Rodgers, Marcus Miller, Narada Michael Walden. And in 1999, he toured the world performing with symphonic orchestras.
The 21st century brought more accolades such as Grammy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; it also brought more new music and world tours, as well as a tribute album to his close friend, George Duke.
In his 50 years in the spotlight, Al Jarreau proved himself to be one of the most versatile, awe inspiring and important artists in the world. He was “In This Love Together” with us for a half century, and today fans around the globe will be celebrating that love, and one of the most uniquely talented singers of our lifetime. Rest in peace, Mr. Jarreau.
By Chris Rizik