Remembering jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis who has died at age 87 (2023)

Remembering jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis who has died at age 87

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Ramsey Lewis has died. A statement on his Facebook page says he spent his last hours peacefully at home in Chicago.


He was a pianist, and you could say that his legacy is extending the life of jazz. In 1965, jazz music seemed to be on the way out of fashion, when Lewis and his trio recorded the song "The In Crowd."


INSKEEP: They recorded in front of a live audience at Bohemian Caverns. That's a club in Washington, D.C., on U Street, once known as the Black Broadway. The tune made an unexpected entry onto the pop charts.

MARTÍNEZ: In a 2015 interview with NPR, Ramsey Lewis said the trio happened on their biggest hit by chance. They were in a D.C. diner trying to think of more songs to play when a server came by.


RAMSEY LEWIS: Nettie Gray came over to the table to serve us our coffee, and what are you guys doing? So we told her, and she says, well, have you have you heard this song by Dobie Gray? She had a jukebox - jukeboxes in coffee shops. People don't know about that anymore. But she went over to the jukebox and played - you guys might like this. Listen to this.


DOBIE GRAY: (Singing) I'm in with the in crowd. I go where the in crowd goes.

LEWIS: I said, that's it.

INSKEEP: And after that success, Lewis scored another hit with the spiritual "Wade In The Water."


INSKEEP: For that recording, his group included Maurice White, later known as the founder of Earth, Wind & Fire.

MARTÍNEZ: Those were some of the peaks of Lewis's 87 years. He grew up in Chicago in a public housing project. He began learning piano at age 4 and played the organ at church on Sundays. In 1992, he returned to meet students at his boyhood elementary school.


LEWIS: I told them that I don't believe in luck. I told them that when constant preparedness meets opportunity, then proper occasions befitting your desires and wills will develop, that one must first dream and one must first have hope and come up with ideas of what he or she wants to be.

INSKEEP: What Lewis became was a jazz master, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, and his fans would agree.


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Remembering jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis who has died at age 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 caused Ramsey Lewis death? ›

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.

Who was the famous jazz pianist who died? ›

Ahmad Jamal, the influential jazz pianist, composer and band leader, has died at the age of 92. His daughter, Sumayah Jamal, confirmed to the New York Times that the cause of death was prostate cancer.

Did Ramsey Lewis pass away? ›

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.

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.

What pianist died recently? ›

Winston died Sunday after a 10-year battle with cancer.

Who is the greatest piano jazz player? ›

The Best Jazz Pianists of All Time
  • Count Basie. ...
  • Duke Ellington. ...
  • Keith Jarrett. ...
  • Dave Brubeck. ...
  • Bill Evans. ...
  • Oscar Peterson. ...
  • Art Tatum. ...
  • Thelonious Monk.
Mar 13, 2023

What jazz guitarist forgot how to play? ›

Martino had been performing since the early 1960s until an aneurysm in 1980 left him with amnesia and no recollection or knowledge of his career or how to play the very instrument that made him successful.

Which legendary jazz musician just died at the age of 81? ›

Pharoah Sanders, a prolific jazz saxophonist, has died at age 81. Jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders has died at the age of 81, according to an announcement Saturday by record label Luaka Bop and a statement from his representative.

How old is Ramsey Lewis? ›

Who was the jazz pianist that died in 1984? ›

William James "Count" Basie (/ˈbeɪsi/; August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984) was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer.

Where was Ramsey Lewis born? ›

Ramsey Lewis

He was born in Chicago on May 27, 1935, to hard-working, self-educated Southern farm workers who met in church. Lewis attended Chicago Music College Preparatory School from 1947 to 1954. He credited his music teacher, Dorothy Mendelsohn, with teaching him how to listen with his inner ear.

Which American pop artist died in 1987? ›

Andy Warhol (/ˈwɔːrhɒl/; born Andrew Warhola Jr.; August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American visual artist, film director, producer, and leading figure in the pop art movement.

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 pop artist died 1987? ›

Andy Warhol Died During Gallbladder Surgery

In 1987 Warhol went in to hospital for gallbladder surgery. Sadly, he died unexpectedly of a cardiac arrest. Throughout his life Warhol had an intense fear of hospitals.

What was Ramsey Lewis age? ›

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.

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 were the members of the Ramsey Lewis Trio? ›

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.

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