Little Known Black History Fact: Al Jarreau

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The loss of jazz vocalist legend Al Jarreau sent ripples throughout the music world after news of his passing on Sunday. The legendary singer enjoyed a history-making career, becoming the first artist to win a Grammy Award across three different categories.

Alwin Lopez Jarreau was born March 12, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisc. The son of a minster father and church pianist mother, Jarreau began singing in choirs early on. As a student at Ripon College, Jarreau continued to sing in groups but school and a making a living were priorities. After earning his master’s degree from the University of Iowa, Jarreau enjoyed a brief stint as a social worker in the Bay Area.

Jarreau began making himself known in jazz circles in the late ’60’s, jamming with George Duke and other jazz stalwarts. After releasing his debut album 1965 that same year, Jarreau became a full-time musician. But it would be another 10 years before he released another album – 1975’s We Got By.

That release truly started his career as a prolific recording artist who was celebrated as an innovative live performer.

Jarreau made history as the first  Grammy winner across the genres of jazz, pop, and R&B. He has been nominated several times including in 2013 for Best Jazz Album and Best Children’s Album.

Health problems began to plague Jarreau around 2010 and he had to cancel tours across Europe. He fell ill again in 2012 with pneumonia, but made a full recovery and continued a strenuous tour schedule up until this year. Just days ago, he retired from touring and was hospitalized for exhaustion.

Jarreau was married twice. His first marriage, to Phyllis Hall, lasted from 1964 to 1968. His second wife was model Susan Elaine Player, whom he married in 1977. Jarreau and Player had one son together, Ryan. The cause of Jarreau’s death has not been made available to the public. He was 76.

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4 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Al Jarreau

  1. ButterPecan on said:

    I am not taking this well. I feel that nausea I felt when Prince passed. I went to every concert when he came to my town and was never disappointed! Although he’s not here physically, I have his all his music to play whenever I want. Rest In Peace Sweet Angel. I will always cherish the memories.

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