I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
July 24, 1921 – December 28, 2010
Billy Taylor performs with his trio during the mid-’80s.
Billy Taylor, piano
Victor Gaskin, bass
Bobby Thomas, drums
Billy Taylor stated that he wrote “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” for his daughter in 1952. It’s most famous version was released on Nina Simone’s 1967 album “Silk & Soul.” The gospel-jazz composition immediately became a popular anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.
Pianist, composer, broadcaster and educator Billy Taylor was born on July 24, 1921 in Greenville, North Carolina.
As a child, Taylor took piano lessons from the man who had taught Duke Ellington some 20 years earlier.
He began his career in the 1940s as the house pianist for the famous NYC club Birdland.
Over the decades, Taylor gained recognition for achievements outside of performance in musical direction for TV and radio, education, and jazz advocacy.
Billy Taylor spent his life elaborating on the jazz genre playing everything from rearranged Ellington tunes, to classic Jelly Roll Morton compositions.
A devoted activist he held a position one of the honorary founders of the “Jazz Foundation of America.”
A multi-instrumentalist, though best known as a pianist he benefited a great deal from lessons with Henry Grant, who had instructed Duke Ellington.
Relocating to Washington D.C. in 1944 he first played professionally with the quartet of Ben Webster.
Starting in the 1960s his teaching pursuits made him a popular and radio personality, enlightening a new generation via the air waves.