Chick Corea, Grammy-winning jazz musician, dies at 79: Photos, Videos

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Chick Corea, a Grammy award winning jazz musician has died at the age of 79, a statement on his website confirmed.

The American musician’s career spanned more than five decades. His last album was released in 2020. Corea is the fourth most nominated artist in the Grammy awards’ history with 65 nominations, winning 23 times.

He died on 9 February from a rare form of cancer that was only recently diagnosed. Corea played with Miles Davis in the late 1960s and his own group, Return to Forever, were at the forefront of the jazz fusion movement.

He was also known around the world for his work as a composer with hits like Spain and 500 Miles High. “Through his body of work and the decades spent touring the world, he touched and inspired the lives of millions,” the statement said.

In an interview with the BBC last November, Corea said he had spent lockdown taking on new projects and was looking forward to playing in front of a live audience again. In a message left for his fans prior to his death, Corea said: “It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. “It’s not that the world needs more artists, it’s also a lot of fun,” he said.

Chick Corea an American jazz pioneer, composer, keyboardist and bandleader, died Tuesday, according to a post on his Facebook page. He was 79. The Facebook statement says Corea died from “a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently.”

Corea was the fourth-most-nominated artist in the history of the Grammys, with 65 nominations, winning 23 times. He also earned three Latin Grammy Awards, the most of any artist in the Best Instrumental Album category.

From straight-ahead to avant-garde, bebop to fusion, children’s songs to chamber music, along with some far-reaching forays into symphonic works, Corea had an astonishing number of musical bases in his illustrious career.

His compositions “Spain,” “500 Miles High,” “La Fiesta,” “Armando’s Rhumba” and “Windows” are jazz standards. He was a member of Miles Davis’ band in the late 1960s, participating in the birth of jazz fusion. Corea played on several classic Davis albums, including Bitches Brew, Black Beauty: Live at the Fillmore West and Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East.

In the 1970s, Corea formed Return to Forever, one of the core groups of the jazz-fusion movement. Along with Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, he is considered one of the major piano voices to emerge in jazz during the post-John Coltrane era.

Corea continued to pursue multiple collaborations and to explore different musical styles throughout the 1980s and ’90s. He also was known for promoting and fundraising for a number of social issues.

The statement posted to Facebook included this message from Corea: “It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.”

Corea’s music was featured in Fernando Meirelles’ 2019 The Two Popes for Netflix.

In the 2012 doc Return to Forever: Inside the Music, which Corea exec-produced, Corea brought together a union of jazz/rock’s founding fathers.

Here is the entire post from his Facebook page:

It is with great sadness we announce that on February 9th, Chick Corea passed away at the age of 79, from a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently.

Chick Corea

Throughout his life and career, Chick relished in the freedom and the fun to be had in creating something new, and in playing the games that artists do.

He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather, and a great mentor and friend to so many. Through his body of work and the decades he spent touring the world, he touched and inspired the lives of millions.

Though he would be the first to say that his music said more than words ever could, he nevertheless had this message for all those he knew and loved, and for all those who loved him:

“I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.

“And to my amazing musician friends who have been like family to me as long as I’ve known you: It has been a blessing and an honor learning from and playing with all of you. My mission has always been to bring the joy of creating anywhere I could, and to have done so with all the artists that I admire so dearly—this has been the richness of my life.”

Chick’s family will of course appreciate their privacy during this difficult time of loss.

“Throughout his life and career, Chick relished in the freedom and the fun to be had in creating something new, and in playing the games that artists do,” the post read. “He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather, and a great mentor and friend to so many. Through his body of work and the decades he spent touring the world, he touched and inspired the lives of millions.”

Corea was a multi-faceted musician, working as a composer, keyboardist, bandleader and occasional percussionist. He was a part of Miles Davis’s band in the late 60s and appeared on key Davis albums such as In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, A Tribute to Jack Johnson and On the Corner.

After working with Davis, he formed his own band, Return to Forever, experimenting with different genres and styles. “There was a synergy going on between what we were creating and how audiences were digging it,” Corea said of their music.

He also formed his own avant-garde group, Circle. He worked on many other projects, including duos with Herbie Hancock and vibraphonist Gary Burton. He recorded and performed classical music, standards, solo originals, Latin jazz and tributes to great jazz pianists.

Last year, Corea released the double album Plays, which captured him at various concerts armed simply with his piano.

Chick Corea in 2007.
Chick Corea in 2007. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

“Like a runner loves to run because it just feels good, I like to play the piano just because it feels good,” he told the Associated Press at the time. “I can just switch gears and go to another direction or go to another song or whatever I want to do. So it’s a constant experiment.”

The double album was a peek into Corea’s musical heart, containing songs he wrote about children decades ago as well as tunes by Mozart, Thelonious Monk and Stevie Wonder, among others.

Tributes have poured in from across the music industry, including from the rapper Q-Tip who tweeted “RIP to one of the coldest pianist/keyboardist/songwriters of ALL TIME”, and the musician Mike Portnoy who posted: “So sad to hear of the passing of @ChickCorea One of the pioneers of jazz/fusion keyboards. Return To Forever was one of the first real Supergroups and such a huge influence.”

“I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright,” Corea said in a final statement also shared on Facebook. “It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.”

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