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Legendary jazz singer Al Jarreau died Sunday morning, according to his manager Joe Gordon. He was 76.
The seven-time Grammy winner had recently been forced into retirement from touring due to exhaustion, according to the Associated Press.
Gordon told The Hollywood Reporter that Jarreau had been hospitalized and was surrounded by his wife, son and a few of his family and friends. A small private service is set for immediate family only, and no public service has been planned at this time.
The cause of death was unclear at press time, but Jarreau had fought through respiratory and cardiac issues in recent years, TMZ reports.
Jarreau’s biggest single was 1981’s “We’re in This Love Together,” and he was featured on the 1985 all-star song “We Are the World.” Jarreau also sang the theme to television’s Moonlighting.
Jarreau is one of the few artists to have won Grammys in three separate categories — jazz, pop and R&B. Time Magazine once called him the “greatest jazz singer alive.”
“We feel very fortunate to have worked with Al, one of the most distinctive and extraordinary vocalists in the music,” Concord Records president John Burk said in a statement. “He was truly a force of nature and a beautiful human being that will be fondly remembered and deeply missed by us all.”
News of Jarreau’s death came as the Grammy Awards were kicking off in Los Angeles.
“He was really one of the most creative vocalists who ever lived,” jazz singer Tierney Sutton told the Associated Press on the red carpet. “His voice was like an instrument.”
Sutton collaborated with Jarreau on the Joni Mitchell tribute album After Blue in 2013.
“Al Jarreau was incredible,” Jill Scott told the AP. “He was one of the most awesome, strange performers I ever met — and I mean ‘strange’ in the best way. He was all about elegance, whether it was drinking a cup of tea or saying good morning.”
Scott, an R&B singer, recorded with Jarreau and George Benson in 2006 on “God Bless the Child.”
Tributes poured in on social media in remembrance of Jarreau as well. Director Ava DuVernay tweeted that her mom used to play Jarreau’s vinyl and that his voice made her happy.
Actress Octavia Spencer wrote that Jarreau “had a mellifluous voice. Soothing. Beautiful.”
Musician and producer Robert Glasper said that Jarreau was one of his first major jazz influences. “He did it his way,” Glasper said.
In a 2014 interview with The Arizona Republic, Jarreau relished in his crossover tendencies.
“I grew up in Milwaukee, and I took it all in. I want it all. Don’t cut me off at the pass and say I can’t listen to Muddy Waters because I’m a jazzer. Or I can’t listen to Garth Brooks because I’m a jazzer. Get out of here,” he said.
Music wasn’t always Jarreau’s focus, however — he didn’t even record his first album until he was 35. Born to a minister father and a mother who played the piano in church, Jarreau sang from an early age, but he was also an athlete who earned a master’s in vocal rehabilitation and started his career as a counselor in San Francisco, playing jazz on the side.
But he couldn’t ignore his passion for performance and eventually gave up his first career to do music full-time.
“His second priority in life was music. There was no third,” read a statement on Jarreau’s website. “His first priority, far ahead of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need.”
His final album, My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke, was released in 2014.
Jarreau’s family asks that in lieu of gifts or flowers, people consider a contribution to the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music. The singer received a lifetime achievement award from the Foundation in October.
The full statement on Jarreau’s website is 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.
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