Al Jarreau

  • R&B and jazz singer, vocal percussionist, songwriter and musician born in 1940 in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Died in 2017 of respiratory failure.
  • Jarreau’s parents were active in their church, and the family sang at church concerts. He sang with a group in college, and after graduation, he earned a master’s degree in vocal rehabilitation in 1962. He moved to San Francisco, where he was a rehabilitation counselor, and at night he performed with a jazz trio. In 1967, he partnered with an acoustic guitarist to perform regularly at a night club near San Francisco, and the following year, he decided to make a career in jazz music.
  • By 1969, he was performing at night clubs in Los Angeles, and got exposure as a vocalist with TV appearances with talk show hosts like Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Dinah Shore. He started writing his own lyrics, inspired by his Christian background. By 1975, he was discovered by a record company and was signed. His debut album was released that year – We Got By. While it only sold modestly, it was acclaimed by critics, and it won an Echo award, which is Germany’s equivalent to the Grammy awards.
  • His second album, 1976’s Glow, also won an Echo award, and it was his first to sell well in the U.S. – it peaked at #9 on the Billboard jazz album chart. Also that year, Jarreau performed on Saturday Night Live in the show’s first season.
  • In 1977, he released a live album, Look To the Rainbow, and the following year, he released All Fly Home. With these albums, Jarreau was established as a major artist in jazz and R&B vocals. He won Grammy awards for both albums, and both landed in the top 10 of the jazz charts. Despite these successes, his singles were not charting highly in any Billboard charts. That changed in 1980, with his album This Time. It was his first album to reach #1 on the jazz albums chart, and the single Never Givin’ Up peaked at #26 on the R&B singles chart.
  • His most popular album was Breakin’ Away, released in 1981. The song We’re in This Love Together became his highest charting song on the Hot 100, peaking at #15, and it reached #6 on the R&B chart. He won 2 more Grammy’s – the album won for Best Pop Vocal Performance, and the song (Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo à la Turk won for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. The album was certified platinum, with sales over 1 million copies.
  • Jarreau released 5 more studio albums during the 80s, as well as another live album. Three of them peaked at #1 or #2 on the jazz charts. The singles Mornin and So Good were top 10 hits on the R&B chart. His biggest fame came from his writing and performance of the theme song to the hit television show Moonlighting in 1985. The song was released by Jarreau as a single in 1987, and it was his final song to chart on the Hot 100 chart, reaching #23. In 1986, he participated in the performance of the charity single We Are The World, one of the biggest selling singles of all time, with over 20 million copies sold.
  • He took a break from recording during the 90s, only releasing 1 studio album, but he continued a busy concert schedule, performed on Broadway in the musical Grease, and began a symphony program. His only album during the decade won him another Grammy award.
  • Six more studio albums were released from 2000 to 2014, as well as 2 live albums. His collaboration in 2006 with George Benson, Giving It Up, won him his final Grammy award, and a remake of his song Mornin topped the jazz singles chart. In February 2017, after a full tour schedule the previous year, he was hospitalized for exhaustion, forcing him to announce that the remainder of his tour was cancelled. Five days after the announcement, he died.
  • Jarreau was famous for his scat singing and vocal percussion – creating sounds with his voice that sounded like a percussion instrument. For you Moonlighting fans…here is Jarreau performing the song. You’ll just have to imagine Bruce Willis (David) and Cybill Shepherd (Maddie) though!

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