Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, whose 60-year music career earned him three Grammy awards, died Monday. He was 87.
Lewis, known for his role in the namesake Ramsey Lewis Trio, died in his sleep at his Chicago home, his son Bobby Lewis told the Associated Press.
His son said his father was at peace at the time of his death.
“Most people say when they met dad that he was a class act,” Bobby Lewis said. “He was that way even through his last breath.”
Lewis, a Chicago native, picked up piano from the young age of four, when he first took lessons. He used his roots in classical and gospel music to create his own style of jazz, which he performed in many Chicago venues that gave young musicians their start.
He went on to tour around the world and perform with other musical greats like Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Al Jarreau and Pat Metheney. He played at the 1995 state dinner then-President Bill Clinton had hosted for President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil.
Lewis received seven gold records as well as the three Grammys and was named National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2007.
“I just know that when I put my hands on the piano it’s going to flow,” Lewis said in a 2011 interview with the Associated Press.
He composed large-scale musical works later in his career including an eight-movement piece for Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Lewis also hosted radio and tv shows focusing on jazz legends and growing stars like “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis,” a weekly program that aired on public television stations across the country.
He also dedicated his time to charities that brought music to young people.
“Ramsey’s passion for music was truly fueled by the love and dedication of his fans across the globe,” his wife, Janet Lewis, said in a Facebook post. “He loved touring and meeting music lovers from so many cultures and walks of life. It was our family’s great pleasure to share Ramsey in this special way with all those who admired his God-given talents.”
Lewis spent the last year of his life completing his memoirs which are scheduled to be published next year, his longtime representative Brett Steele said.
“I believe that my father — his love for the piano and his passion for the piano and how he coveted this love and how he protected it — that gave him longevity,” Bobby Lewis said. “He recognized the gift God had given him.”
In addition to his wife Janet and son Bobby, Lewis is survived by daughters Denise Jeffries and Dawn Allain; two other sons Kendall Kelly Lewis and Frayne Lewis; and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
With Post wires