Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis has died, age 87
Explore Our Galleries
Today's news and culture by Black and other reporters in the Black and mainstream media.
Ways to Support ABHM?
By Caryn Rousseau and Corey Williams, Associated Press
Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, whose music entertained fans over a more than 60-year career that began with the Ramsey Lewis Trio and made him one of the country’s most successful jazz musicians, has died. He was 87.
Lewis is revered in jazz circles for 1960s hits like “The ‘In’ Crowd,” “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water.” He earned three Grammy awards and seven gold records. The trio’s first record in 1956 was “Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing.”
Lewis first took piano lessons at age 4. He spent his early days in Chicago using his gospel and classical roots to create his own jazz style in the many neighborhood venues that hired young jazz musicians.
“It gave us a lot of opportunity to try our ideas and learn what it means to perform in front of an audience,” Lewis said as he was named National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2007. He accepted the award from his mentor and fellow Jazz Master, pianist Billy Taylor.
During his career, Lewis performed with musical stars such as Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Al Jarreau and Pat Metheney. Lewis had more than 80 albums to his credit — three dozen of them with Chicago-based Chess Records. He toured around the world and performed at the 1995 state dinner that then-President Bill Clinton hosted for President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil.
Keep reading for more highlights of Lewis’ career and approach to music.
Entertainment is just one subject we include in our breaking news page.
Comments Are Welcome
Note: We moderate submissions in order to create a space for meaningful dialogue, a space where museum visitors – adults and youth –– can exchange informed, thoughtful, and relevant comments that add value to our exhibits.
Racial slurs, personal attacks, obscenity, profanity, and SHOUTING do not meet the above standard. Such comments are posted in the exhibit Hateful Speech. Commercial promotions, impersonations, and incoherent comments likewise fail to meet our goals, so will not be posted. Submissions longer than 120 words will be shortened.
See our full Comments Policy here.