Adam Bruton

Les McCann Obituary, Jazz Icon Les McCann Passes Away At 88

Legendary jazz pianist and singer Les McCann, known for his hit song “Compared to What,” has passed away at the age of 88. McCann’s career spanned decades and he was a pioneer of soul jazz, blending global rhythms, funk, and soul. Despite suffering a stroke in 1995, he continued to make music and released albums in recent years. McCann’s impact on the jazz world was immense, and his talents extended beyond music, as he became the first artist in residence for Harvard University’s Learning From Performers program. Discover the remarkable life and legacy of Les McCann.

Life and Career of Les McCann

Les McCann, a renowned jazz pianist and singer, led a remarkable life and left an indelible mark on the music industry. From his humble beginnings to his groundbreaking innovations, McCann’s journey was filled with passion, talent, and resilience.

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Early Life and Musical Beginnings

Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Les McCann discovered his love for music at a young age. As a self-taught pianist, he honed his skills and developed a unique style that would later captivate audiences worldwide. His dedication and determination were evident even during his time in the U.S. Navy, where he showcased his talents and won a singing competition that led to a breakthrough performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Breakthrough and Fame

McCann’s career skyrocketed when he made the bold decision to turn down an opportunity to join Cannonball Adderley’s band. Instead, he pursued his own path and recorded piano music with his trio for Pacific Jazz Records. It was his 1969 album “Swiss Movement” that truly propelled him into the spotlight. The album featured the iconic song “Compared to What,” a powerful critique of the Vietnam War that resonated with audiences and solidified McCann’s fame.

Innovations and Impact

As one of the pioneers of soul jazz, Les McCann pushed the boundaries of the genre by infusing it with global rhythms, funk, and soul. He fearlessly embraced non-traditional instruments such as the synthesizer and electronic piano, adding a contemporary twist to his music. McCann’s innovative approach not only captivated listeners but also influenced future generations of musicians.

Later Years and Resurgence

In 1976, McCann’s active career came to a temporary halt when he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. However, his determination and love for music propelled him forward. After a period of recovery, he made a triumphant return, recording albums like “A Time Les Christmas” and “Pump It Up.” His resilience and unwavering spirit inspired many, proving that passion knows no bounds.

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Legacy and Other Accomplishments

Les McCann’s impact extended beyond his musical contributions. In 1975, he made history as the first artist in residence for Harvard University’s Learning From Performers program, sharing his knowledge and expertise with aspiring musicians. Additionally, his talent extended to photography, as showcased in his book “Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann 1960-1980.” McCann’s legacy lives on, forever etched in the annals of jazz history.

Renowned jazz pianist and singer Les McCann, best known for his hit song “Compared to What,” has passed away at the age of 88. McCann, a self-taught pianist from Lexington, Kentucky, rose to fame with his soulful jazz music that fused global rhythms, funk, and soul. His 1969 album “Swiss Movement” and critical assessment of the Vietnam War propelled his career. McCann’s impact extended beyond traditional jazz, as he embraced non-traditional instruments like the synthesizer and electronic piano. Despite a stroke in 1995, he continued to record music and released albums like “A Time Les Christmas” and “Pump It Up.” McCann’s legacy lives on through his contributions to the jazz world and his work as the first artist in residence for Harvard University’s Learning From Performers program. We remember and appreciate the remarkable talent of Les McCann.

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