George Duke, famous jazz musician, died Monday from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, according to his label Concord Music Group, which confirmed his death. The pianist was an icon to many but also a humble man of humble beginnings.
George Duke lost his battle with cancer on Monday. There is no word yet on how long Duke had battled with his condition, but what is known is that he will be missed.
Duke’s son, Rashid, thanked his father’s fans in a statement Tuesday. “The outpouring of love and support that we have received from my father’s friends, fans and the entire music community has been overwhelming,” he said. “Thank you all for your concern, prayers and support.”
The musical genius’ later music was infused with deferential respect for his wife.
His wife, Corine, died from cancer last year. He was unable to make music for months, but he overcame his grief to create the album “DreamWeaver,” released last month. It features a fusion of sounds and a touching tribute to his late wife on the romantic piano-driven ballad “Missing You.”
Before Leukemia rocked George’s life, music was what guided him. The jazz musician’s death has ignited a renewed interest in the life of the humble star.
George Duke initially began his music career playing with friends in everything from garages to local clubs, Duke quickly eased his way into session work, which refined his abilities and expanded his approach to music.
Duke’s modest analysis of his own music further reveals his submission to his art.
Addressing his first studio album “GEORGE DUKE QUARTET” (1966), Duke stated on his website, “without a doubt this is the worst record I’ve ever made. I was quite nervous and had been studying John Coltrane. For some reason I thought all I had to do was play the head of a tune real nice and then proceed to rattle off myriads of notes at high velocity. This did not make for a pleasing result, but it was all I knew. Actually I have tapes that predate this LP that are far superior, because I was relaxed and not in a studio environment.”
However, the album was released not only in the United States, but also in Europe and probably other places around the globe. Rateyourmusic.com gave it a rating of 3.31, which fared better than some of his later releases.
The advocate for musical education in schools, himself, started practicing his musical craft during his youth. The beginnings were small and humble but would pay off in the future.
Duke began taking piano lessons when he was 4 years old, after seeing Duke Ellington perform. “I don’t remember it too well … but my mother told me I went crazy,” Duke said on his website. “I ran around saying, ‘Get me a piano, get me a piano!’”
Duke’s final album, DreamWeaver, was released July 16 and made its debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart. It was his first new music since the death of his wife, Corine, last year.
Before George Duke’s death from leukemia, he may have had small beginnings, but he was surrounded by more than just jazz greats– he was known by all musical greats. Some other notable musicians who Duke was affiliated with include Billy Cobham, Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Jill Scott and Michael Jackson. His music was also sampled by Kanye West, Daft Punk and Common. George Duke was expected to appear alongside Jeffrey Osborne on August 8th in Rhode Island.
Written by: Cedric Hines