March 12, 1940 – February 12, 2017
“We’re In This Love Together” from seven-time Grammy Award winning American jazz singer, Al Jarreau.
Alwin “Al” Lopez Jarreau was born March 12, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the fifth of six children. His website refers to Reservoir Avenue, the name of the street where he lived. His father was a Seventh-Day Adventist Church minister and singer, and his mother was a church pianist. He and his family sang together in church concerts and in benefits, and he and his mother performed at PTA meetings.
He was student council president and Badger Boys State delegate for Lincoln High School, going on to Ripon College, where he also sang with a group called the Indigos. Jarreau graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. He went on to earn a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa, worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor in San Francisco and moonlighted with a jazz trio headed by George Duke.
In 1967, he joined forces with acoustic guitarist Julio Martinez. The duo became the star attraction at a small Sausalito night club called Gatsby’s. This success contributed to Jarreau’s decision to make professional singing his life and full-time career.
In 1968, Jarreau made jazz his primary occupation. In 1969, Jarreau and Martinez headed south, where Jarreau appeared in such Los Angeles hot spots as Dino’s, The Troubadour, and Bitter End West. Television exposure came from Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, and David Frost. He expanded his nightclub appearances performing at The Improv between the acts of such rising-star comics as Bette Midler, Jimmie Walker, and John Belushi. During this period, he became involved with the United Church of Religious Science and the Church of Scientology, but he is no longer affiliated with Scientology. Also, roughly at the same time, he began writing his own lyrics, finding that his Christian spirituality began to impact his work.
In 1975, Jarreau was working with pianist Tom Canning when he was spotted by Warner Bros. Records and soon thereafter released his critically acclaimed debut album, We Got By, which catapulted him to international fame and garnered him a German Grammy Award. A second German Grammy would follow with the release of his second album, Glow.
One of Jarreau’s most commercially successful albums is Breakin’ Away (1981), which includes the hit song “We’re In This Love Together.” He wrote and performed the Grammy-nominated theme to the 1980s American television show Moonlighting. Among other things, he is well known for his scat singing and the ability to imitate conventional guitar, bass, and percussive instrumentation. He was also a featured vocalist on USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” in which he sang the line, “…and so we all must lend a helping hand.” Another charitable media event, HBO’s Comic Relief, featured Al in a duet with Natalie Cole singing the song “Mr. President,” written by Joe Sterling, Mike Loveless and Ray Reach.
Jarreau took an extended break from recording in the 1990s. As he explained in an interview with Jazz Review: “I was still touring, in fact, I toured more than I ever had in the past, so I kept in touch with my audience. I got my symphony program under way, which included my music and that of other people too, and I performed on the Broadway production of Grease. I was busier than ever! For the most part, I was doing what I have always done … perform live. I was shopping for a record deal and was letting people know that there is a new album coming. I was just waiting for the right label (Verve), but I toured more than ever.”
In 2003, Jarreau and conductor Larry Baird collaborated on symphony shows around the United States, with Baird arranging additional orchestral material for Jarreau’s shows.
He has toured and performed with numerous musicians, including Joe Sample, Chick Corea, Kathleen Battle, Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Rick Braun, and George Benson. He also performed the role of the Teen Angel in a 1996 Broadway production of Grease. On March 6, 2001, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 7083 Hollywood Boulevard on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue.
Al Jarreau appeared in a duet with American Idol finalist Paris Bennett during the Season 5 finale and on Celebrity Duets singing with actor Cheech Marin.
In 2010, Al Jarreau is a guest on the new Eumir Deodato album, with the song “Double Face” written by Nicolosi/Deodato/Al Jarreau. The song is produced by the Italian company Nicolosi Productions.
On February 16, 2012, he was invited to the famous Italian Festival di Sanremo to sing with the Italian group Matia Bazar.
Jarreau has been married twice. His first marriage, to Phyllis Hall, lasted from 1964 to 1968. His second wife was model Susan Player, whom he married in 1977. Jarreau and Player have one adult son together, Ryan.
It was reported on July 23, 2010 that Jarreau was critically ill at a hospital in France, while in the area to perform a concert at nearby Barcelonnette, and was being treated for respiratory problems and cardiac arrhythmias. He was taken to the intensive-care unit at Gap late on July 22, 2010. Jarreau was conscious, in a stable condition and in the cardiology unit of La Timone hospital in Marseille, the Marseille Hospital Authority said. He was expected to remain there for about a week for tests. In June 2012, Jarreau was diagnosed with pneumonia, which caused him to cancel several concerts in France.
Since then, Jarreau has made a full recovery and continues to tour extensively.
In 2009 children’s author Carmen Rubin published the story Ashti Meets Birdman Al, inspired by the music of Al Jarreau. He wrote the foreword for the book and reads from it across the world. Both Al and Carmen work together to promote literacy and the importance of keeping music alive in children. Books are available on iTunes and www.carmenrubin.com