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Music industry mourns the loss of George Duke

Story highlights

  • Keyboardist George Duke has died
  • The prolific artist was suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Duke was known for creating and collaborating across genres
  • "It's a goulash," he said of his sound

Jazz great George Duke, a visionary keyboardist, producer, composer and arranger, has died in Los Angeles. He was 67.

The Grammy-winning artist was known for blending jazz with rock, funk, R&B and Brazilian sounds, creating music that moved beyond boundaries. Over the course of his lengthy career, which spanned nearly 50 years, the prolific musician collaborated with notables such as Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Anita Baker and Frank Zappa.

According to a statement from his record label, Duke was being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

"We are all devastated by the sad news of George's passing," said Mark Wexler, general manager of the Concord-Telarc Label Group. "He was a great man, a legendary, one-of-a-kind artist; and our hearts go out to his family. George will be missed by all."

A California native, Duke was inspired to play the piano after catching a Duke Ellington performance as a child. In 1997, he told USA Today he remembered "seeing this guy in a white suit, playing this big thing, which I later found out was a piano. He had all these guys around him, and he was waving his hands conducting, and he spoke very intelligently and seemed to be having a good time. ... I told my mom, 'I want to be him.' That moment in time set the stage for me."

An alum of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco State University, Duke would become renowned for his skills with the keyboard, and according to Rolling Stone magazine had released more than 40 albums.

    "I was in a rock band, I played with a bunch of Brazilians, I played R&B with Parliament-Funkadelic and all of that," he said in an interview, according to the New York Times. "I mean, I've done jazz with Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley. It's a goulash. It's a gumbo."

    His most recent album, "DreamWeaver," was composed following the death of his wife, Corine. It was released on July 16, and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart, according to his record label.

    Several stars in the entertainment industry, from Quincy Jones to Janelle Monae, have mourned the loss of the jazz giant.

    "Rest in Peace to my brother and collaborator George Duke," Jones tweeted. "A great musician, a greater friend."

    "#GeorgeDuke merits the highest praise," added Questlove of The Roots. "Frank Zappa (beyond genius Genius) loved & respected Duke. that means somethin."

    "George Duke rest in peace," Monae posted. "He was an inspiration to us."

    Duke's son, Rashid, shared his gratitude for the support his family has received.

    "The outpouring of love and support that we have received from my father's friends, fans and the entire music community has been overwhelming," he said in a statement. "Thank you all for your concern, prayers and support."

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