*Legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis has died. The three-time Grammy winner made his transition peacefully in his Chicago home on Monday (09/12/22). A spokesperson confirmed that Lewis was 87.
Even though Lewis was primarily a jazz musician, he’s probably best known for his gigantic crossover pop hit “The In Crowd.”
The bottom line is that Lewis played with a soulful elegance that transcended genre, blending pop and jazz into something uniquely his.
“The man just oozed charm as he was performing and really engaged his audiences,” said Christine Taylor Conda, Ravinia Festival’s director of education programs.
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Lewis was born in Chicago in 1935 and grew up in the Cabrini Green housing project. He began playing piano when he was only 4.
“Used to walk by The London House at Wacker and Michigan every day on his way to his classical piano lessons,” recalled David Marienthal, executive producer of the 2021 documentary “Live at Mister Kelly’s.”
Lewis played in Mister Kelly’s house band, opening for some of the world’s biggest acts before achieving his own stardom with “The In Crowd,” “Hang On Sloopy,” “Wade in the Water” and other hits.
Here’s more via ABC 7 Chicago:
He was also a lifelong supporter of arts education and helped found Chicago’s Ravinia Jazz Mentor Program, which has helped thousands of CPS students pursue a future in music.
“He knew that underrepresented kids in underserved areas would not have the access that they needed,” Conda said.
In 2014 Lewis told ABC7 he’d like to be remembered “as a wonderful human being, hopefully, that happened to play piano.”
Lewis recorded more than 80 albums. He is survived by his wife, five children, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And he continued playing until the very end; an album of his livestream performances is due to be released in November.