Ramsey Lewis, Chicago-Born Jazz Great Who Continually Evolved, Dead at 87 (2023)

Video:Ramsey Lewis performs “Dear Lord” by John Coltrane in the WTTW studios on April 8, 2010.

Chicago is mourning the loss of one of its most celebrated native sons, as the family of Ramsey Lewis announced the award-winning musician died peacefully at his Chicago home Monday morning. He was 87.

Lewis grew up in Cabrini Green and began taking piano lessons at age four, playing at the church where his father was choir director. It was his father’s appreciation of artists like Duke Ellington and Art Tatum that heavily influenced Lewis’ embrace of jazz, a love he then inspired in others.

“Ramsey’s passion for music was truly fueled by the love and dedication of his fans across the globe. He loved touring and meeting music lovers from so many cultures and walks of life,” his wife Jan Lewis said in a statement. “It was our family’s great pleasure to share Ramsey in this special way with all those who admired his God-given talents.”

Those admirers were legion, dating back to Lewis’ beginnings in the 1950s with the Ramsey Lewis Trio. His biggest hits —“The In Crowd,” “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water” — were released in the 1960s but remained fan favorites throughout his long career.

“I used to try to get off the stage without playing one of those songs. People, they gotta be tired of those songs, I’ve been playing them so long — for 20, 30, 40 years,” Lewis told WTTW News in a 2020 interview. “As we’d walk off the stage, people would say, ‘Aren’t you going to play “The In Crowd?” Aren’t you going to play “Wade in the Water?””

As the decades passed, Lewis experimented with a broad array of musical genres from Bach to the Blues, introducing himself to new listeners, and teamed up with a variety of collaborators, among them Maurice White and Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind and Fire.

Long Live the Legendary Ramsey Lewis… Our Great Friend and Jazz Icon. You will be sorely missed, and always remembered. God Bless and Keep you.

— Philip Bailey (@PhilipBaileyEWF) September 12, 2022

Three times a Grammy winner, Lewis’ accolades also includean NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Artist and a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award.

But Lewis wasn’t content to rest on his status as an elder statesman. He continued recording, with a new album of livestream performances, “The Beatles Songbook: The Saturday Salon Series, Volume One,”due this November. His memoir, “Gentleman of Jazz,” penned with co-writer Aaron Cohen, is due in 2023.

WTTW News arts correspondent Angel Idowu caught up with Lewis in 2020, just before the musician’s 85th birthday. The pandemic had given him cause for reflection, he said, but he didn’t want to get too bogged down in nostalgia.

“It’s a joyous occasion to be 85,” Lewis said, “and to be able to sit and play the 88.”

RIP Ramsey Lewis - music genius
I love this photo from the cover of the live album: "The Ramsey Lewis Trio in Chicago" pic.twitter.com/YFq0HdE93u

— Zac Weber (@zzzweber) September 12, 2022

Lewis is survived by his wife Jan, five children, 17 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.He was predeceased by his sons Ramsey Lewis III and Kevyn Lewis.

Contact Patty Wetli:@pattywetli| (773) 509-5623 |[emailprotected]

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors


Ramsey Lewis, Chicago-Born Jazz Great Who Continually Evolved, Dead at 87? ›

Ramsey Lewis, a jazz pianist who unexpectedly became a pop star when his recording of “The 'In' Crowd” reached the Top 10 in 1965 — and who remained musically active for more than a half century after that — died on Monday at his home in Chicago. He was 87. His death was announced on his website.

What jazz singer died at 87? ›

Legendary jazz musician Ramsey Lewis, known for hits such as “The In Crowd” and “Wade in the Water,” died Monday morning at his home in Chicago. He was 87. Lewis recorded over 80 albums in his career, during which he received five gold records and three Grammy Awards.

Is Ramsey Lewis still living? ›

What was the cause of death of Ramsey Lewis? ›

Ramsey Lewis, a pianist who sustained connections between jazz and popular music at a time when those bonds often seemed fragile and imperiled, died on Monday in Chicago, his hometown. He was 87. His death was announced by his manager, Brett Steele, who cited natural causes.

How old is Ramsey Lewis jazz? ›

Ramsey Lewis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 12, 2001, June 29, 2004, and December 20, 2004. Lewis passed away on September 12, 2022 at the age of 87.

Who was the jazz musician killed in a car crash? ›

Clifford Benjamin Brown (October 30, 1930 – June 26, 1956) was an American jazz trumpeter and composer. He died at the age of 25 in a car crash, leaving behind four years' worth of recordings. His compositions "Sandu", "Joy Spring", and "Daahoud" have become jazz standards.

What famous jazz player died? ›

Wayne Shorter, the legendary, Grammy-winning saxophonist who — in addition to his own renowned albums and work with jazz supergroup Weather Report — collaborated with the likes of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Steely Dan, and Joni Mitchell, has died at the age of 89.

Where in Chicago did Ramsey Lewis live? ›

Mr. Lewis was born and raised in Chicago, where his family lived and worked in the shadow of Cabrini-Green. His music studies ran the gamut, from playing the organ on Sundays at his local church to piano lessons at the age of 4 to the Chicago Music College Preparatory School.

How many children did Ramsey Lewis have? ›

“Ramsey radiated class, character, and substance,” wrote White in his autobiography. His first marriage ended in divorce, and two sons predeceased him. He is survived by his second wife, Janet (nee Tamillow), two daughters and three sons.

Does Ramsey Lewis live in Chicago? ›

NBC 5's Regina Waldroup shares the story of his incredible life. Friends and family are remembering jazz legend, Ramsey Lewis, who died Monday at his home in Chicago. He was 87. Lewis' passion was discovered as a preschooler, when he started taking piano lessons.

What jazz pianist passed away? ›

Ahmad Jamal, the influential jazz pianist whose style influenced generations of musicians for seven decades, died on Sunday, The Washington Post reports. He was 92.

Where did Ramsey Lewis grow up? ›

A lifelong Chicagoan, Lewis grew up in the Cabrini-Green housing project in the city's Near North Side. Though he played piano throughout his childhood, his exposure to jazz came only at home, when his father would play records from Duke Ellington and Art Tatum (one of Lewis' all-time favorite artists).

Did Ramsey Lewis have a sister? ›

Ramsey Lewis: I started studying piano when I was four years old and it was just something to do. I didn't choose to do it, my older sister Lucille, two years older than me, was chosen to be the pianist in the house.

Who is the oldest living jazz artist? ›

At 102, He Still Makes the Saxophone Swing

Fred Staton didn't set out to become the world's oldest jazz musician. But at 102, it turns out that he is.

What is the oldest jazz club in the United States? ›

What Is The Oldest Jazz Club In The World? The Green Mill, located in Chicago, Illinois, is the oldest jazz club in the United States–and in the World. It has been around for over a century and has played host to many famous jazz musicians including Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong.

What is the oldest jazz club in the world? ›

The World's Oldest Jazz Club

Continuously running since 1934, Baker's Keyboard Lounge has featured some of the best known jazz musicians.

What singer died at 79 years old? ›

Christine McVie, British songwriter and lead singer on many of Fleetwood Mac's hits, has died at 79. “She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure,” said the band in a social media announcement on Wednesday.

What singer just died at 79? ›

Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie has died at age 79 The British-born vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player whose cool, soulful contralto helped define such classics as "You Make Loving Fun," "Everywhere" and "Don't Stop," died Wednesday.

What jazz musician died in 1967? ›

John Coltrane – Age 40

He led over 50 recording sessions and appeared as a sideman on albums, notably with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie. Coltrane died of liver cancer on July 17, 1967. His longtime collaborator, Miles Davis, said that "Coltrane's death shocked everyone, took everyone by surprise.

Who was the US jazz composer who died in 1979? ›

Charles Mingus, byname Charlie Mingus, (born April 22, 1922, Nogales, Arizona, U.S.—died January 5, 1979, Cuernavaca, Mexico), American jazz composer, bassist, bandleader, and pianist whose work, integrating loosely composed passages with improvised solos, both shaped and transcended jazz trends of the 1950s, '60s, and ...

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Last Updated: 29/11/2023

Views: 5831

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Birthday: 1999-05-27

Address: Apt. 171 8116 Bailey Via, Roberthaven, GA 58289

Phone: +2585395768220

Job: Lead Liaison

Hobby: Lockpicking, LARPing, Lego building, Lapidary, Macrame, Book restoration, Bodybuilding

Introduction: My name is Sen. Ignacio Ratke, I am a adventurous, zealous, outstanding, agreeable, precious, excited, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.