×

Joe Sample, Iconic Jazz Pianist, Dies at 75

Legendary jazz pianist Joe Sample died on Friday morning in Houston. He was 75.

Sample, who revolutionized jazz fusion in the ’60s and ’70s, was also a keyboardist and composer for more than five decades, having worked with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Anita Baker, Joni Mitchell and Canned Heat.

Sample’s family announced the news on Facebook, but didn’t mention the cause of death. The pianist was hospitalized last year with pneumonia after suffering from ongoing health issues, including heart attacks in 1994 and 2009.

“His wife Yolanda and his son Nicklas would like to thank all of you, his fans and friends, for your prayers and support during this trying time,” the Facebook post read. “Please know that Joe was aware and very appreciative of all of your prayers, comments, letters/cards and well wishes.”

Sample formed the band the Jazz Crusaders with his classmates, saxophonist Wilton Felder, drummer Stix Hooper, trombonist Wayne Henderson, and others, while studying at Texas Southern University in the mid-’50s. The group moved to Southern California and recorded their first album, “Freedom Sound,” in 1961. Nineteen of their 40-plus albums landed on the Billboard 200 chart.

The group changed its name to The Crusaders 10 years later after experimenting with other sounds like funk and R&B. They added an electric bassist and guitarist, and Sample started playing electric keyboards. They parted ways in 1987.

Sample also had a thriving solo career. He worked with other musicians to record 21 solo albums and appeared on classic pop-rock albums such as Joni Mitchell’s “Court & Spark” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

Sample was touring in Europe with his new group, the Creole Joe Zydeco Band, until recently. He had been collaborating with New England folk singer Jonatha Brooke on a biography about 19th-century New Orleans nun Henriette DeLille for the last 16 years.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band

    Film Review: 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas'

    Settling in to watch “ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas,” you may have a burning question that applies to almost no other rock documentary, and that is: Who, exactly, are these guys? The ones behind the beards? If you’re old enough, of course, you probably know that ZZ Top started out, in 1969, [...]

  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST

    Jay-Z to Acquire Ownership Stake in NFL Team (Report)

    Jay-Z will soon acquire a “significant ownership interest” in an NFL team, TMZ reported on Friday. The team was not disclosed, but a source told the site the deal will happen in the “near future,” adding that the billionaire rapper “wants to continue to be a change agent for the NFL.” Jay-Z’s company, Roc Nation, [...]

  • (L-R) NELL WILLIAMS as Eliza, VIVEIK

    How 'Blinded by the Light' Brought Bruce Springsteen's Music to the Screen for a Song

    Blinded by the Light co-writer/director Gurinder Chadha knows firsthand what it feels like to be an outsider. Born in Kenya when the country was a British colony, she grew up part of the Indian/Asian diaspora who made their way from East Africa to London. For that reason, the 59-year-old’s movies has always dealt with the [...]

  • Blake Shelton, Trace AdkinsCMA Music Festival

    Blake Shelton Takes a Shot at 'Old Town Road' in New Single

    Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins have just released a duet, “Hell Right,” that seems to have a beef with “Old Town Road.” But is it a light-hearted, maybe even affectionate slam — or should anyone read culture-war significance into the two country stars expressing a preference for Hank Williams Jr. over Lil Nas X, the breakout [...]

  • Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven

    Department of Justice Backs Led Zeppelin in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Case

    The U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in on the next big music copyright case on the horizon following the Katy Perry “Dark Horse” decision, and taken Led Zeppelin’s side in the long-running copyright dispute that pits the writers of the group’s anthem “Stairway to Heaven” against the publishers of the earlier song “Taurus” by [...]

  • Teddy Riley Walk of Fame

    From Blackstreet to Hollywood Blvd. as Teddy Riley Receives a Star on the Walk of Fame

    Many musical artists are responsible for hits, whether recording and writing for themselves or producing smashes for others. Teddy Riley’s got the success, having fashioned platinum-plated R&B works for, and with, Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson, Keith Sweat, Doug E. Fresh and more since the mid-’80s, not to mention the music of his own slick soul [...]

  • Album Review: Snoh Aalegra

    Album Review: Snoh Aalegra’s ‘Ugh, Those Feels Again’

    Apart from having one of the all-time greatest album-sequel titles, “Ugh, Those Feels Again” — which follows this R&B-leaning Swedish-Persian singer’s 2017 debut full-length, “Feels” — succeeds on a far more complex level: making familiar sounds unfamiliar. Snoh Aalegra signed to Sony when she was just 13 and released a more pop-leaning album under the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content