MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Pianist and band leader Eddie Heywood Jr., who wrote the jazz standard 'Canadian Sunset' and accompanied Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald on several of their most popular recordings, died at his home Monday. He was 73.
Heywood, who was born in Atlanta in 1915, suffered from Parkinson's disease complicated by Alzheimer's disease.
He learned how to play the piano from his father, a bandleader in the 1920s and '30s. He played in bands led by Benny Carter and Don Redman, before creating his own successful sextet in Harlem in 1943.
His version of Cole Porter's 'Begin the Beguine' sold more than 1 million copies in 1944, the same year his band provided backup for Holiday on 'Strange Fruit' and other hit projects.
Other Heywood compositions include 'Soft Summer Breeze' and 'Golden West,' but his biggest hit was 'Canadian Sunset' recorded in 1956.
Partial paralysis of both hands forced Heywood to retire in 1947. Unable to play, he turned to composing, writing more than 40 songs - both jazz and pop. He tried to return to performing in the late 1960s, but the paralysis hampered his playing.
Heywood and his wife, Evelyn, retired to south Florida recently. He is also survived by two sons, Robert and Edward.
A spokesman said memorial services will be held in New York and Atlanta.