by Graham Pierrepoint
REMEMBERING AL JARREAU
There have been many Grammy winners over the years, and one of the US’ most decorated jazz vocalists has passed away this week just as the latest ceremony took place. Al Jarreau, famous for hits such as ‘We’re in This Love Together’ and big-selling albums ‘High Crime’, ‘Glow’ and ‘Breakin’ Away’, passed away after being treated in hospital for exhaustion in recent days. He was 76.
The musician had recently announced he was retiring from touring due to exhaustion, having been performing live for over 50 years. Jarreau is one of very few artists to have successfully transitioned from one genre to another and to have been celebrated throughout – having started as a jazz vocalist before moving into R&B and pop chart standards in the early 1980s. Even in the 1990s, he was still being recognized for his unique vocal range – to many, he will be recognizable as the vocalist for the theme to 1980s TV show Moonlighting, starring Cyril Shepherd and Bruce Willis.
Jarreau was a relatively late starter in terms of his musical career, having trained as a psychology specialist and having released his first album at the age of 35, over forty years ago. He later went on to sing in the ensemble USA For Africa with the likes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, performing the chart-topping charity hit ‘We Are The World’ in 1985. It was during the 1980s that Jarreau developed his early jazz standards into mainstream R&B, producing radio hits from his albums ‘L Is For Lover’ and ‘Heart’s Horizon’ towards the end of the decade. He continued to record and perform to millions of fans worldwide throughout the years, only revealing his intention to cease touring following his recent hospitalisation. He leaves behind a wife and a son, and a legacy that will largely go unmatchable. At the time of writing, his cause of death is as yet unknown.
While Jarreau’s core fan base is in his home of the US, his music is recognisable to many all over the world – and had continued to keep fans up to date with his music and musings through social media. It is through here in recent days that – even in moments of ill health – his son Ryan revealed that he had been entertaining nurses with his unique singing voice. It can therefore be said that Al Jarreau played to his audience until his very last – and he will be greatly remembered for being one of the most versatile and recognizable voices in US R&B history – as well as hugely missed by all who knew him, and who listened to him.