RIP: Al Jarreau

Posted February 12, 2017 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Days after announcing retirement, beloved jazz/crossover pop singer dies at the age of 76 

Only days after announcing his retirement from music following doctor’s orders due to exhaustion, Al Jarreau passed away on Sunday morning, February 12 at the age of 76. only weeks from his 77th birthday and on the same day of the 59th annual Grammy Awards.

The famed vocalist, a seven-time Grammy winner, entered the world of music full-time as a jazz singer in the late ’60’s as a lounge singer, performing in some of the hottest spots in L.A. After a performance on the first season of Saturday Night Live, the Milwaukee, WI-born Jarreau was signed to Warner Bros. and released his debut album, We Got By, which won critical acclaim. In 1978, he won his first Grammy for Look to the Rainbow for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Transitioning into the world of pop, Jarreau hit it big with 1981’s Breakin’ Away, which contained the Top 20 pop hit and AC radio staple “We’re in This Love Together” for which nabbed him his second Grammy trophy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The album was a runaway hit, even celebrated by music critics and leaving to credit it as “the standard bearer of the L.A. pop and R&B sound.” The success continued with his performance of the theme song for the hit television show Moonlighting, which starred Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis, also a chart hit (#23 pop, #32 R&B, #8 UK, #1 AC). Around that time, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie brought him aboard the all-star cast to record the best-selling charity single, “We Are the World” for which blessed with him with the poignant line “and so we all must lend a helping hand.”

During the ’90’s with jazz tastes changing and record sales slipping, Jarreau took a break from recording music, but his touring schedule remained in full form, allowing him to perform for award shows and at jazz music festivals around the world. He also made it a habit in his latter years to alter his original recordings with fresher, unique arrangements in concert by adapting his trademark scat skill and improvised melisma to the mix. In recent memory, Jarreau collaborated with a host of popular popular names including George Benson, George Duke, David Sanborn Joe Sample, Chick Corea and opera star Kathleen Battle and also performed with Paris Bennett on the season five finale of American Idol.

One of his last recordings was a collaboration in 2010 with record producer and jazz legend Eumir Deodato on the album The Crossing. “Al Jarreau guests on the upbeat ‘Double Face,’ bringing spirited punches to the catchy chorus (“Double feature/Double creature/That will teach ya…Double do ya/ Double fool ya/Hallelujah”),” J Matthew Cobb wrote in an album review for “As the groove expands, the song is sweetly seduced into disco nirvana as the gorgeous warmth of the backing vocals alongside Jarreau’s infectious scatting adds extra layers of comfort. Jarreau also teams up with Novecento’s Dora Nicolosi on ‘I Want You More,’ with Nicolosi floating on the wings of Sade seduction.”


According to a statement published on his website, Jarreau was recently hospitalized after battling extreme exhaustion. The jazz singer was improving slowly and had taken the wise suggestions of his medical advisors to cancel all dates in 2017, leaving him with the unfortunate task to announce “with complete sorrow” his retirement from performing. Jarreau survived two health scares in 2010 and 2012 after battling respiratory ailments and then being diagnosed with pneumonia, causing him to ultimately cancel several dates in France. He would make a full recovery and would continue his touring regimen until 2017.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response