Harold Battiste, Producer and Jazz Musician, Dies at 83

Harold Battiste, Producer and Jazz Musician,
Courtesy of the Historic New Orleans Collection

Musician and producer Harold Battiste died Friday after a long struggle with an undisclosed illness. He was 83.

Born in New Orleans, Battiste played saxophone and piano in addition to being a talented producer and arranger. He is known for his contributions to Sonny and Cher’s sound (“I Got You Babe,” “The Beat Goes On”) as their musical director, as well as his work with Sam Cooke on hits “You Send Me” and “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Battiste contributed to Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” and he was instrumental in building the career of celebrated New Orleans musician Dr. John.

In an effort to give his fellow musicians more control over their catalog, Battiste founded the first musicians-owned label in New Orleans, A.F.O. (All For One) Records, in the ’60s. He then focused his efforts on educating the next generation, serving for a time as the director of jazz studies at UCLA’s Coburn School of Music.

His accolades include Offbeat magazine’s 2009 Lifetime Achievement in Music award.