A Rockapaedia Obituary
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Al Jarreau died of respiratory failure aged seventy-six on 12th February 2017 and is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.A. His death was just two days after announcing his retirement. He was survived by his wife, Susan, and their son.
In June 2012, Al Jarreau was diagnosed with pneumonia, which caused him to cancel several concerts in France. Al made a full recovery and continued to tour extensively for the next five years until February 2017. In February 2017, after being hospitalized for exhaustion in Los Angeles, Al cancelled his remaining 2017 tour dates.
In 1968, Al Jarreau made jazz his main occupation. Television exposure came from Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, and David Frost. He expanded his nightclub appearances, performing between the acts of rising stars including Bette Midler, Jimmie Walker, and John Belushi. During this period, he became involved with the United Church of Religious Science and the Church of Scientology. Also, roughly at the same time, he began writing his own lyrics, finding that his Christian spirituality began to influence his work.
Al Jarreau was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A. on 12th March 1940, the fifth of six children. Al Jarreau's father was a Seventh-day Adventist Church minister and singer, and his mother was a church pianist. Al Jarreau and his family sang together in church concerts and in benefits, and he and his mother performed at PTA meetings.
Al Jarreau was student council president and Badger Boys State delegate for Lincoln High School. At Boys State, he was elected governor. Al Jarreau went on to attend Ripon College, where he also sang with a group called the Indigos. He graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Two years later, in 1964, he earned a master's degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa. Al Jarreau also worked as a rehabilitation counsellor in San Francisco, and played with a jazz trio headed by George Duke. In 1967, he joined forces with acoustic guitarist Julio Martinez. The duo became the star attraction at a small Sausalito night club called Gatsby's. This success contributed to Al Jarreau's decision to make professional singing his life and full-time career.
In 1975, Al Jarreau was working with pianist Tom Canning when he was spotted by Warner Bros. Records. On Valentine's Day 1976 he sang on the thirteenth episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live, that week hosted by Peter Boyle. Soon he released his critically acclaimed debut album, We Got By, which catapulted him to international fame and won an Echo Award (the German equivalent of the Grammys in the United States). A second Echo Award would follow with the release of his second album, Glow. In 1978, he won his first Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for his album, Look To The Rainbow.
One of Al Jarreau's most commercially successful albums is Breakin' Away from 1981, which includes the hit song "We're in This Love Together". He won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for Breakin' Away. In 1984, his single "After All" reached 69 on the US Hot 100 chart and number 26 on the Rythm & Blues chart. It was especially popular in the Philippines. His last big hit was the Grammy-nominated theme to the 1980s American television show Moonlighting, for which he wrote the lyrics. Among other things, he was well known for his extensive use of scat singing, and vocal percussion. He was also a featured vocalist on USA for Africa's "We Are the World" in which he sang the line, "...and so we all must lend a helping hand." Another charitable media event, HBO's Comic Relief, featured him in a duet with Natalie Cole singing the song "Mr. President".
Al Jarreau took an extended break from recording in the 1990s. As he explained in an interview with Jazz Review that he was still touring, and in fact, he toured more than he ever had in the past, so he kept in touch with his audience. He got his symphony program under way, which included his music and that of other people too, and he performed on the Broadway production of Grease. He was busier than ever! And for the most part, he was doing what he has always done...perform live. He was shopping for a record deal and was letting people know that there is a new album coming. He was just waiting for the right label (Verve), but he toured more than ever." In 2003, Al Jarreau and conductor Larry Baird collaborated on symphony shows around the United States, with Baird arranging additional orchestral material for Al Jarreau's shows.
Al Jarreau toured and performed with Joe Sample, Chick Corea, Kathleen Battle, Gregor Praecht, Miles Davis, George Duke, David Sanborn, Rick Braun, and George Benson. He also performed the role of the Teen Angel in a 1996 Broadway production of Grease. On 6th March 2001, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2006, Al Jarreau appeared in a duet with American Idol finalist Paris Bennett during the Season 5 finale and on Celebrity Duets singing with actor Cheech Marin. In 2010, Al Jarreau was a guest on a Eumir Deodato album, with the song "Double Face" written by Al Jarreau, Deodato, and Nicolosi. The song was produced by the Italian company Nicolosi Productions. In February 2012, he was invited to the famous Italian Festival di Sanremo to sing with the Italian group Matia Bazar.
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