Its been one year since we lost the Grammy-winning jazz keyboardist George Duke. Mr. Duke was a producer whose sound infused acoustic jazz, electronic jazz, funk, R&B and soul. Duke was born in San Rafael, Calif. During his stellar 40-year-plus career, he appeared on a number of Frank Zappa albums and played in the Don Ellis Orchestra, Cannonball Adderley’s band and with jazz musician Stanley Clarke. Duke also played keyboard on Michael Jackson’s multi-platinum 1979 album, “Off the Wall.”
Duke began taking piano lessons when he was four years old, after seeing Duke Ellington perform. He said on his website, “I don’t remember it too well … but my mother told me I went crazy… I ran around saying, ‘Get me a piano, get me a piano!’”
Like most of the greats, Duke learned a lot about music from going to church, which helped him add a funk style to his sound. He played in high-school jazz groups and was heavily influenced by Miles Davis. He earned degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco State University.
On tour as part of the George Duke Trio, he performed in Los Angeles at a show where Adderley, Zappa and Quincy Jones were in attendance. Duke soon joined Zappa on a tour for a year in 1969. He joined Adderley’s band in 1971. He met Clarke through Adderley, and they formed the Clarke/Duke Project. Their song “Sweet Baby” was a Top 20 hit on the Billboard pop charts.
Mr. Duke became a solo artist in 1976 and released more than 30 solo albums. He also produced for Miles Davis, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Natalie Cole. His latest album, “DreamWeaver,” was released and features a touching tribute to her. He worked as musical director for the Soul Train Music Awards and other special events. He also scored songs on soundtracks for “The Five Heartbeats” and “Karate Kid III.”
Every life is born with a purpose. I am honored that I had the pleasure of being inspired by the wonderful music from this man of class and stature. I send my love, respect, and sympathy, from the depth of my heart to the family of George Duke for all the love he left the world. Rest In Peace and we will remember the “Dukey Stick”! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…