Passings: Al Jarreau (1940 - 2017)

by VVN Music

Al Jarreau, the jazz singer who crossed over to the pop music charts on a number of occasions during his long career, has died at the age of 76.

Jarreau has just been hospitalized for what was called exhaustion and, on Thursday, had announced his retirement. At the time, doctors had advised him not to tour at all for the rest of the year.

The announcement came via his website:

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 following was written on his Facebook account:

It is with the deepest of sadness to inform you Al Jarreau passed away this morning, at about 600am LA time. He was in the hospital, kept comfortable by his wife, son, and a few of his family and friends. A small, private service is planned, for immediate family only. No public service is planned yet this time.

The family asks that no flowers or gifts are sent. Instead, please consider a contribution to the @Wisconsin Foundation for School Music, a wonderful organization which supports music opportunities, teachers, and scholarships for students in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin. A donation page is here:…/…/ Even if you do not plan to contribute, please visit that page and give yourself a few minutes to watch a beautiful tribute video that Wisconsin Public Television produced to honor Al when he received his lifetime achievement award from the Foundation October.

Jarreau was born in Milwaukee, WI to a minister and singer and a mother who was the church pianist. While involved in music throughout his youth, he was intent on getting an education, receiving a degree in psychology and a masters in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa.

After graduating, he worked as a rehabilitation counselor in San Francisco during the day while performing with George Duke's band at night. He later moved into a duo with guitarist Julio Martinez before deciding on music as a full time endeavor.

For seven years, he played clubs around California and appeared on a number of national talk shows but it wasn't until 1975 that he was spotted by Warner Brothers Records and signed to a contract. His debut album, We Got By, just missed the charts but his second, Glow (1976) made it to 132 on the Billboard 200 along with 30 on the R&B Albums and 9 in jazz.

Over the next six years, he released two more acclaimed albums before putting out Breakin' Away (1981). The album brought his talent into the general public eye with the hit We're In This Love Together (1981 / #15 Pop / #6 R&B). The breakthrough gave Jarreau a whole new audience and led to a series of hits including:
  • You're Precious Love (with Randy Crawford) (1982 / #16 R&B)
  • Boogie Down (1983 / #77 Pop / #9 R&B)
  • Mornin' (1983 / #21 Pop / #6 R&B)
  • The Music of Goodbye (with Melissa Manchester) (1986 / #16 AC)
  • Moonlighting (theme) (1987 / #23 Pop / #32 R&B)
  • So Good (1988 / #2 R&B)
He also appeared on the We Are the World recording in 1985. 

During the 90's, Jarreau took a hiatus from performing to concentrate on touring, including symphonic programs, along with appearing in a Broadway 1996 revival of Grease. He returned to recording in 2000 when he signed with Verve for the album Tomorrow Today. His last album was 2014's My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke.

Jarreau had suffered a number of medical problems throughout this decade including hospitalization in France in 2010 for respiratory and cardiac problems. He also suffered from pneumonia in 2012. 

Al Jarreau is survived by his wife of 39 years and a son. 

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