Music industry icon George Duke, known for his keyboard work and ability to cross multiple genres, passed away Monday in Los Angeles. He was 67.
Although primarily associated with jazz (initially gaining fame as the leader of the George Duke Trio), in his career Duke also ventured into R&B, funk pop, rock, avant-garde and even Brazilian pop. Besides releasing 30 solo albums across his career, Duke collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Frank Zappa, Anita Baker, Al Jarreau, Jeffrey Osborne and many others. He is remembered as a pioneer in piano and keyboard work, starting with jazz piano and working into synthesizer (thanks in part to his work on Frank Zappa’s records). He played keyboards on Michael Jackson’s 1979 album Off the Wall.
As a producer, Duke worked on records for several high-profile artists, including Miles Davis, Natalie Cole, Dionne Warwick and others. He also served as a musical director for a number of major events, including The Soul Train Music Awards and the Nelson Mandela tribute concert in 1988 in London.
George Duke was suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia at the time of his death. His wife Corine passed away last year from cancer. Duke’s last album DreamWeaver was released just last month.