By: Daniel Peterson
Singer-songwriter Alwin Lopez Jarreau was born on March 12, 1940, in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He was raised in a religious household, and this posed a good start to this guy’s talent, as he began singing in the church as young as four. Jarreau’s talent didn’t emerge as a miracle; he had to nurture it .he started singing in the local jazz bands and street-corner harmony groups. At twenty, he graduated from Wisconsin’s Ripon College in 1960, but still, he was never off in music. While in the college, he used to perform with a local group referred to as the Indigos.
The quintessential modern jazz artist released his first album at the age of twenty-five, it was purely buzz, and he featured bassist Gary Allen, pianist Cal Bezemer and drummer Joe Abodeely. He later recorded more than two dozen albums over the followed decades. He became the first vocalist in the music industry to receive Grammy Awards in the three distinct categories (jazz, R&B, and pop). Among all his releases, he traveled a long journey to release his favorite compilation in 1996, where he featured his career hits.
Jarreau was not only a talented musician but also a successful scholar. He earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation, from the University of Lowa. He migrated to San Francisco where he began a brief career of a social worker. No matter the place, Jarreau never shielded his talent from depicting itself. While in San Fransisco, he together with George Duke, used to perform at a small jazz club.
The 1980s and 90s proved to be Jarreau’s peak seasons in his career. During this period, he maintained almost an annual album release.
Jarreau returned from his first world tour in 1977, and encountered his first American Grammy Award, and which was for best jazz vocal performance, for his album “Look to the Rainbow.” His fourth album, “All Fly Home”, released in the following year, continued to prove Jarreau’s exceptional abilities by earning a second Grammy for the best “jazz vocalist.”
In 1985, Al Jarreau’s recorded Live in London, at Wembley Arena, which helped solidify his reputation as the world-class master of both studio and also the stage. The popular Breakin’ Away scooped two more Grammys, for the best male jazz vocalist and the best male pop vocalist.
After an almost a two-year global tour, the Jarreau embarked to the studio to produce ‘Heaven and Earth” another successive move which credited him his fifth Grammy as the Best R&B Vocal Performer.
In 1996, he began a three-month stint on the Broadway taking the role of Teen Angel in the hit musical Grease. His appearances on Touched By An Angel and New York Undercover signified his additional acting credits.
Jarreau was crowned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001 plus another Grammy for the Best Traditional R&B Performance in the year 2007 for “God Bless the Child,” with Jill Scott and George Benson.
When the Chicago Tribune interviewed him, he talked about the evolution of jazz. He said that “Jazz, whatever we think its purest form is, is a dynamic and changing form,” he added. “It will never be the jazz of the 1930s and ’40s and ’50s because it’s changing and responding to its environment. That environment includes the influences of Michael Jackson, Sting, and hip-hop just as much as Charlie Parker or bebop.”
Although many will say that having been born in a music family, it wasn’t any big surprise to see Jarreau achieve what he achieved, but, it should not be ignored that, winning the six Grammys across the three distinct categories, requires extra personal efforts other than the inherited privileges. We will miss you a lot! But hope we will meet in the next world. REST IN PEACE!