By Dylan Deprey
He was a smooth crooner. He was a versatile vocalist. He was a damn hard worker.
Al Jarreau’s 20+ albums, seven Grammys and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are just few of the accolades achieved over the decades of hard work.
Milwaukee’s own Al Jarreau died at 76, surrounded by his wife, son and family in a Los Angeles hospital from respiratory failure on Feb. 12, 2017.
Though most musicians say they will perform until the day they die, Jarreau literally sang his heart out until he was forced into retirement due to health complications only two days prior to his passing.
George Duke, Jarreau’s longtime friend, and website producer made a statement on his website following his passing.
“His 2nd priority in life was music. There was no 3rd. His 1st priority, far ahead of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need. Whether it was emotional pain, or physical discomfort, or any other cause of suffering, he needed to put our minds at ease and our hearts at rest. He needed to see a warm, affirming smile where there had not been one before. Song was just his tool for making that happen,” Duke said.
Before working with critically-acclaimed performers worldwide, he began singing at four years old. Through his years at Lincoln High School he excelled at school and sports, while also performing with his brother at local events.
He graduated, and went to Ripon College for a degree in Psychology. During, his undergrad years he sung with a group, The Indigos, in his free time.
He pursued his Master’s Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation at University of Iowa, and later moved to San Francisco to begin his work in rehabilitation counseling.
It was in the late 60’s when he found his true calling performing in a trio lead by George Duke at a small jazz club.
Jarreau later moved to Los Angeles, and began apprenticeships at famous L.A. hotspots. He reached out to late night comedy shows in New York.
In 1975, Warner Bros. reps found him during a set of his ongoing gig at the Bla Bla Café. His critically first album, “We Got By,” was released in 1976, which scored him an Echo Award (German Grammy.)
After multiple strings of live and studio albums, he released his most commercially successful and Grammy winning album “Breakin’ Away” in 1981, which included the hit song “We’re in Love Together.”
His work ethic never slowed down over a thirty-year span diving in and out of genres with his ever-eccentric vocal performances. He toured and performed with Jazz, R&B, Opera and orchestral superstars across the world.
He was the voice that opened the television comedy crime drama, “Moonlighting,” and even had as part, Teen Angel in the Broadway production, “Grease!”
He released his final album “My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke” in 2014, and continued touring.
Though he never got to experience a full retirement, Al Jarreau’s discography is proof music was more than hard work.
He sang. He toured. He loved.
Rest in Peace Al Jarreau.