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Ramsey Lewis, Grammy-winning jazz pianist, dies at 87

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Grammy-award winning jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis has died at the age of 87. File photo by Ezio Petersen/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/a8fc5e787c06cae077cc16993fdccc26/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Grammy-award winning jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis has died at the age of 87. File photo by Ezio Petersen/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, who reinvented his genre in a career spanning more than 60 years, has died. He was 87 years old.

The three-time Grammy award-winning member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio died Monday at his Chicago home.

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Lewis was born and spent his life in Chicago where he started playing piano at the age of four. He formed his first jazz band, the Clefs, when he was in high school. Lewis went on to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio, with Eldee Young and Redd Holt, releasing their first album Ramsey Lewis and His Gentlemen of Jazz in 1956.

The trio's crossover Grammy-winning hit "The 'In' Crowd" pushed Lewis from the jazz charts to the pop charts in 1965. The hit single was followed by two more chart-toppers "Hang on Sloopy" and "Wade in the Water."

After Young and Holt left to form their own group, Lewis went on to work with Earth, Wind & Fire's drummer Maurice White. Lewis experimented with electronic keyboards for his 1974 album Sun Goddess, produced by White and featuring members of Earth, Wind & Fire.

Lewis continued playing jazz throughout the 1970s while exploring R&B and Latin music. He reunited his famous Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1983 for the album Reunited.

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In 1995, Lewis introduced the crossover group Urban Knights featuring Grover Washington, Earl Klugh and Dave Koz. In 2005, Lewis recorded With One Voice, which earned him the Stellar Gospel Music Award for Best Gospel Instrumental Album.

During his lifetime, Lewis received five honorary doctorate degrees and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Artist. "The In Crowd" single was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, while his personal memorabilia is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Lewis received a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award, placing him in the company of piano legends Ahmad Jamal, Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner.

The jazz legend continued working into his eighties. Lewis and his wife, Janet, produced the critically acclaimed Saturday Salon livestream series during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His latest album, The Beatles Songbook: The Saturday Salon Series, Volume One is scheduled to be released Nov. 11. He spent the final year of his life working on his memoir Gentlemen in Jazz which will be released in 2023.

Lewis is survived by his wife and five children.

"Ramsey's passion for music was truly fueled by the love and dedication of his fans across the globe. He loved touring and meeting music lovers from so many cultures and walks of life," his wife Janet said in a statement. "It was our family's great pleasure to share Ramsey in this special way with all those who admired his God-given talents."

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Kenneth Starr, a former federal judge, U.S. solicitor and independent counsel who investigated former President Bill Clinton, speaks in Washington on June 30, 2004. Starr died on September 13 at age 76 due to complications from surgery. Photo by Michael Kleinfeld/UPI | License Photo

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