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Saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman Dies at 75

David “Fathead” Newman, whose saxophone contributed to the classic recordings of Ray Charles for many years, and who enjoyed a prolific solo career as well, died of pancreatic cancer at his home in West Hurley, N.Y., on Jan. 20. He was 75.

Born in Corsicana, Tex., on February 24, 1933, Newman and his family soon moved to Dallas. He began his career fronting local bands after graduating high school, where a teacher had given him the nickname he embraced professionally. He studied music and theology at Jarvis Christian College, but left after two years to pursue a career in music. While gigging with alto saxophonist Buster Smith, Newman was introduced to Ray Charles, who called upon Newman to join his band in 1954. Newman, first as baritone saxist and then as tenor, stayed with Charles for a dozen years, playing on most of Charles’ Atlantic and ABC hit records as well as accompanying him for concert appearances.

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