Home Jazz Famous jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis dies at 87

Famous jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis dies at 87


Famed jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, whose 60-year musical career earned him three Grammy Awards, died on Monday. He was 87 years old.

Lewis, known for his role in the namesake trio Ramsey Lewis, 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 dad he was a class act,” Bobby Lewis said. “He was like that until his last breath.”

Lewis, a Chicago native, learned the piano from 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 played at many Chicago venues that gave young musicians their start.

He then toured the world and performed with other big names in music like Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Al Jarreau and Pat Metheney. He performed at the 1995 State Dinner that President Bill Clinton hosted for President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil.

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

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

Ramsey Lewis has dedicated time to charities bringing music to young people.

He composed large-scale musical works later in his career, including an eight-movement piece for Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Lewis also hosted radio and television shows focusing on jazz legends and rising stars such as “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis”, a weekly program airing on the public television across the country.

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

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

“Ramsey’s passion for music was truly fueled by the love and dedication 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 backgrounds. It was our family’s great pleasure to share Ramsey in this special way with all who admired his God-given talents.

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

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

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

With post wires