Jazz great was once a counsellor

Al Jarreau.
Al Jarreau.

LOS ANGELES • Al Jarreau, the affable jazz singing great who reached new audiences by seamlessly merging styles and through television, died on Sunday, days after announcing his retirement. He was 76.

The seven-time Grammy winner - a rare artist to win in jazz, pop and R&B categories - died in a Los Angeles hospital where he had been treated for fatigue, his manager said.

Jarreau is best known for the singles We're In This Love Together and After All. Many also heard his voice, even if they did not know it, in the theme to Moonlighting, the hit 1980s television series that brought Bruce Willis to prominence.

His other notable appearances included a prominent role on We Are The World, the 1985 song by a mega-cast of music A-listers to raise money for famine-ravaged Ethiopia.

His manager Joe Gordon described Jarreau as the ultimate gentleman. His second priority was music, but "his first priority, far ahead of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need", Gordon wrote on Jarreau's website.

Jarreau had announced last week that he was finished with touring due to exhaustion. He was hospitalised in 2010 for respiratory problems.

Gregory Porter, winning the Grammy on Sunday for Best Jazz Vocal Album, called him "one of the greatest jazz voices that ever lived".

Growing up in Milwaukee, Alwyn Lopez Jarreau sang at church and at school. His mother was a piano teacher who played the organ in the Seventh-Day Adventist church, where his father was a preacher and would sing.

But raised in a city with a large German and Eastern European community, Jarreau recalled that he lived near a tavern that played polka and that the radio would play everything from classical music to the blues.

He studied for a career in counselling and worked as a rehabilitation counsellor. He later headed to San Francisco, where he teamed up with acoustic guitarist Julio Martinez.

He made his big breakthrough in Los Angeles in 1975, when he was invited to perform at the legendary Troubadour club in West Hollywood. His debut album, We Got By, was released that same year and became an international hit. He was married twice and had a son.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Jazz great was once a counsellor'. Print Edition | Subscribe