Al Jarreau, the “Acrobat of Scat,” was a jazz icon and constant performer who never forgot his Milwaukee roots. He was born in 1940 in Milwaukee to a musical household—his mother taught piano and played the organ in church, while his father was a singer. He sang in the church choir with his brothers and occasionally performed solo. While at Ripon College, in Ripon, Wisconsin, he sang with a local group called the Indigos. He did not consider himself a full-time performer until 1967, after a move to San Francisco and a partnership with Julio Martinez.
He was best known for his hits “Breakin’ Away,” “We’re in This Love Together,” and the theme song to “Moonlighting,” a 1980s-television show. He released more than twenty albums during his career and was the first vocalist to win Grammys in the Jazz, Pop, and R&B categories. He also won four more Grammy awards in those categories, for a total of seven, awards during his fifty-year career. In 1991, he was awarded an honorary degree from Berklee College of Music, in Boston, MA, and a Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2004. In October 2016, he received the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his work promoting the arts and music education. Despite his constant touring schedule, Jarreau often returned to Milwaukee to encourage young individuals to pursue their passions. Jarreau died in Los Angeles in February 2017 of respiratory failure.
- ^ CNN Wire Service, “Al Jarreau, Famed Jazz Singer and Milwaukee Native, Dead at 76,” Fox6Now February 12, 2017, last accessed November 13, 2017.
- ^ Monee Fields-White, “Al Jarreau, a Unique Musical Stylist, Dead at 76,” The Root February 12, 2017, last accessed November 13, 2017.
- ^ Honorary Degree Recipients, Berklee website, last accessed November 13, 2017; Verizon’s National Literacy Champion Al Jarreau to Receive Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Verizon website, May 21, 2004, last accessed November 13, 2017.
- ^ Piet Levy, “Al Jarreau to Be Honored in Milwaukee,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 28, 2016, last accessed November 13, 2017.
- ^ Jacob Kittilstad, “Al Jarreau Dead at 76, His Childhood in Milwaukee Remembered,” WDJT Milwaukee, February 12, 2017, last accessed November 13, 2017.
For Further Reading
Corenthal, Michael G. The Illustrated History of Wisconsin Music, 1840-1990: 150 Years of Melodies and Memories. Milwaukee: Yesterdays Memories, 1991.
Geenen, Paul H. Milwaukee’s Bronzeville: 1900-1950. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
Pinkham, Derek J. Milwaukee Jazz Profiles: Lives and Lessons of Musicians from the Cream City. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2010.