Al Jarreau, the versatile singer and seven-time Grammy winner whose worked spanned pop, R&B and most infamously jazz, died at a Los Angeles hospital surrounded by family and friends, Sunday, Feb. 12, according to posts on his verified social media accounts. He was 76.
Dubbed the “Acrobat of Scat” for his innovative vocal delivery and improvisational abilities, Jarreau’s career spanned five decades and more than 20 albums. He remained a tireless performer up until his death, as it came just days after he announced he announced retirement from touring and was admitted to the hospital for exhaustion.
He was born Alwin Lopez-Jarreau in Milwaukee in 1940. His father was a minister and his mother was a piano teacher. He began singing in the church choir at the age of 4. However, later in life he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wisconsin’s Ripon College. He then earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation and soon after began a short career as a social worker.
But his call to a music career persisted.
“His second priority in life was music. There was no third. His first priority, far head of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need,” said a statement on Jarreau’s website. “He needed to see a warm, affirming smile where there had not been one before. Song was just his tool for making that happen.”
Jarreau did not release his first album, popular in jazz circles, until his was nearly 35. He won his first Grammy within two years and mainstream followed soon after with the 1981 release of his “Breakin’ Away” album which hit the Top 10 on the Billboard charts and attracted a wide following.
He is best known for his biggest hit single “We’re in This Love Together,” “Breakin’ Away” and the popular 1980’s television show theme song for “Moonlighting.” He is the only performer to win Grammys in the jazz, pop and R&B categories.
Jarreau was a part of the all-star lineup of music artists who sang in the 1985 hit song “We Are the World,” which raised money for famine relief in Africa. His line was “and so we all must lend a helping hand.”
In 1996, he also did a three-month stint on Broadway as the Teen Angle in a production of “Grease.”
In 2001, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Jarreau is survived by his wife, Susan, and son Ryan.
A private service will be held for immediate family. No public service is planned at this time and his family requests that instead of personal gifts, contributions be made to the Wisconsin Foundation for School music, scholarship fund that Jarreau established.