Rest In Peace George Duke
George Duke has passed away at the age of 67. He died in Los Angeles on Monday night after four decades as a legendary keyboardist, producer and influencer across jazz, funk, soul, rock, electronic music and hip-hop. Saying that his death is a devastating blow to fans and fellow musicians may be treading in the territory of trite understatement, but it is absolutely the truth. There is no hip-hop producer or rising musician working within the traditions of jazz and blues that would not count George Duke’s music amongst their major sources of inspiration and sample material. There is no digger who does not own a stash of George Duke LPs, nevermind the legion of DJs crafting sets and reworks around his face melting recordings; Duke’s “Brazilian Love Affair” is one of many tunes from his catalog that still kills on the dancefloor. There is not one living collaborator of George Duke’s that would hesitate to admit to being a fan of his music.
George Duke’s musical ascent began shortly after he graduated from San Francisco Conservatory with a degree in trombone and composition and a minor in contrabass; though Duke became known for his work as a pianist, the depth of his rhythmic sensibilities remains obvious across his catalog. He met with critical acclaim after releasing The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio in 1969. George Duke spent his career recording and touring with a host of musical icons including Frank Zappa, Airto Moreira, Sheila E., Anita Baker, Cannonball Adderley, Milton Nascimento, Stanley Clarke, Flora Purim, Rachelle Ferrell and Miles Davis.
As impressive as his stats are, his musical influence – particularly his pioneering exploration in fusion – is a largely immeasurable and priceless contribution to the American musical canon. His thirst for sonic nuance and insatiable afro-futurism are very much the seed of the musical revolution occurring with today’s genre-busting leaders, including Thundercat – the visionary bassist who practically received the torch from Duke after covering “For Love I Come” – and Flying Lotus. A master of vintage keyboards and synthesizers, George Duke’s approach helped to expose the true dynamism of his chosen instrument in ways that he and Stevie Wonder arguably pioneered; that sound would go on to inspire recordings from Common, Kanye West and Daft Punk.
George Duke worked as the musical director of the Soul Train Music Awards, spent time playing jazz festivals and continued recording until shortly before his passing, with his last project arriving in 2013. Duke was preceded in death by his wife Corine, whose 2012 passing inspired Dreamweaver – his final studio LP released on Concord Records – after a period of mourning that initially found him unable to record. Prior to his death, George Duke had been battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Duke’s son Rashid issued a statement to the Associated Press today, thanking his father’s fans:
“The outpouring of love and support that we have received from my father’s friends, fans and the entire music community has been overwhelming,” he said. “Thank you all for your concern, prayers and support.”
George Duke will be missed across the world. Watch the video below to get the rundown on George Duke’s Dreamweaver LP and a few life lessons from the man himself. Scroll down to check a bit of new music and a couple of takes on classics from his expansive catalog, which is explained in detail at The Revivalist. Be sure to raise the volume as we celebrate his life with sounds from Okayfuture x King Britt, Thundercat and Mochilla. Rest in peace and powerful song, George Duke.