George Duke, Legendary Jazz Keyboardist, Dies

NPR | Aug. 6, 2013 9:42 a.m.

Contributed By:

Eyder Peralta

George Duke.

George Duke.

Courtesy of the artist

George Duke, the legendary jazz keyboardist, died on Monday, his publicist tells NPR.

Duke’s career spanned five decades and he always straddled the line between disparate genres, collaborating with artists such as Miles Davis, Barry Manilow, Frank Zappa, George Clinton and some of Brazil’s top musicians.

When he spoke to Weekend Edition in 2008, he told Scott Simon that he could not recall how many albums he’d put out.

“I’m kinda like [John] McCain in that way: He doesn’t know how many houses he’s got; I don’t know how many albums I’ve got,” Duke joked.

Duke was 67. The cause of death was not immediately known.

A little more than a year ago, Duke’s wife died of cancer. Duke was devastated and could not make music for months. But, earlier this month, Duke released “DreamWeaver,” which the AP’s Charles J. Gans says tied up Duke’s eclectic career in a lush tribute to his wife.

“Duke expresses his love for his late wife on the tender, piano-driven ballad ‘Missing You,’ a romantic vocal duet with Rachelle Ferrell,” Gans wrote. “The album ends by turning the cowboy ballad ‘Happy Trails’ — Dale Evans’ closing theme to ‘The Roy Rogers Show’ — into a soulful, heartfelt farewell to his wife, made even more poignant by the sudden death of guitarist Jef Lee Johnson shortly after he recorded the fadeout guitar solo.”

In a promotional interview released by his record label, Concord, Duke sounded excited about his new record.

“I don’t want people to get the idea that this is a morbid record, because it’s more about celebration,” Duke said.

In 1994, Duke appeared on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, where he performs his tune “Geneva” and duets with McPartland in “My Funny Valentine.” We’ll leave you with that performance:

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