Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis has died at the age of 87

Acclaimed jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, whose 60-year music career earned him three Grammy awards, died Monday. He was 87.

Lewis, best known for his role in the Ramsey Lewis Trio of the same name, died in his sleep at his Chicago home, his son Bobby Lewis told the Associated Press.

His son said his father was at peace at the time of his death.

“Most people say when they met papa that he was class,” said Bobby Lewis. “He was like that until his last breath.”

Lewis, a native of Chicago, began playing the piano at the age of four when he first took lessons. He used his roots in classical and gospel music to create his own style of jazz, which he performed at many Chicago venues that launched young musicians.

He then toured the world performing with other music greats such as Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Al Jarreau and Pat Metheney. He played at the 1995 state dinner hosted by then-President Bill Clinton for Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Lewis has received seven gold records and three Grammys, and was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2007.

“I just know that if I put my hands on the piano, it’s going to flow,” Lewis said in a 2011 interview with the Associated Press.

Jazz pianist and composer Ramsey Lewis describes his compositional methods during an interview at his home.
Ramsey Lewis has devoted time to charities that bring music to youth.

Later in his career he composed extensive musical works, including an eight-movement piece for Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, Lewis also hosted radio and television shows focused on jazz legends and rising stars, such as “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis,” a weekly show aired by public television stations across the country.

He also dedicated his time to charities that brought music to young people.

Ramsey Lewis poses next to a piano.
Ramsey Lewis began taking piano lessons at the age of four.

“Ramsey’s passion for music was truly fueled by the love and devotion of his fans around the world,” his wife Janet Lewis said in a Facebook post. “He loved touring and meeting music lovers from so many cultures and walks of life. It has been a great joy for our family to be able to share Ramsey in this special way with all those who have admired his God-given talents.”

Lewis spent the last year of his life finishing his memoir, which is due for publication next year, his longtime representative Brett Steele said.

“I believe that my father – his love of the piano and his passion for the piano and how he coveted that love and how he protected it – gave him a long life,” said Bobby Lewis. “He recognized the gift that God had given him.”

In addition to his wife Janet and son Bobby, Lewis is survived by daughters Denise Jeffries and Dawn Allain; two other sons Kendall Kelly Lewis and Frayne Lewis; and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

With postal wires Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis has died at the age of 87


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