13 February 2017

South Africa: Nation Mourns Passing of Al Jarreau

Pretoria — Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has expressed sadness on the passing of legendary jazz and R&B singer and seven time Grammy winner, Al Jarreau.

Jarreau passed on Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital at the age of 76, just days after announcing his retirement from touring because of exhaustion.

He was hospitalised for exhaustion last week and was forced to cancel his remaining tour dates for 2017.

"We are shocked and saddened at the passing of legendary Jazz and R&B singer and seven time Grammy winner, Al Jarreau. A great master has left our midst.

"We have embraced him as belonging also to us as a creative son of the African Diaspora. His music has given us joy over decades and his songs have instilled us with power to change our lives.

"We can never forget songs like 'We're in this love together', which stays in our minds. I remember his performance so well at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival, where he wooed us with his all-time greats and thanked South Africa for inspiring the world.

"This is a sore loss for jazz lovers all over the world. Al Jarreau's versatility as an artist who crossed musical barriers meant that his music was loved by a range of different audiences. His music is popular music at its best, inspirational and tuneful, with a voice that could harmonise well and thus gave us strength and confidence in ourselves," said Minister Mthethwa.

Al Jarreau once described the musical creative process as "youthful, restorative, healing and inspiring".

"I walk off stage, and I know I'm healed in some kind of way. And I know there are people in the audience who will walk away from the show feeling the same way," said the musical great.

Born in Milwaukee in the US in 1940, he started singing at church gatherings when he was still a boy. He embarked on a musical journey in the 1960s, releasing an album in 1965.

In so doing, he left behind a career as a counsellor working with people with disabilities for which he had studied for and gained a bachelor's degree in psychology.

His big break came when he was signed by Warner Records and through the release of the album "We Got By" in 1975, which brought him national status and attention. Sixteen albums followed as well as live recordings and numerous collaborations.

"His music will continue to inspire us for generations to come. He serenaded us and, in so doing preached love, tolerance, unity and social cohesion. This message of unity is still sorely needed by the world.

"Our sincere condolences go to his wife Susan, his son and to his fans across the globe," Minister Mthethwa said.

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