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Shirley Horn Dies

The Verve Music Group is saddened to announce the passing of Shirley Horn, the legendary pianist and vocalist. Horn died Thursday, October 20, in her hometown of Washington, D.C., after a lengthy illness. She was 71 years old.

Ron Goldstein, President & CEO of the Verve Music Group, comments “Shirley Horn was a true innovator. She created a unique style of playing and singing that was not only original, but so penetrating and so much her own that few dared try to copy it. She was also a great character and I will miss all of my conversations with her, which were delivered in the same deadpan, ironic style that we all knew and loved from her performances. Her passing is a great loss to Verve, to jazz, and to the world.”

Born on May 1, 1934, Horn began to play the piano at age four. After majoring in music at Howard University, Horn put together her first trio in 1954. Miles Davis invited her to open for him at the Village Vanguard in 1960, an engagement which led to a recording contract with Mercury Records and a life-long friendship with Davis. Quincy Jones became an admirer and mentor of Horn’s during this period, and produced two of her albums: Loads Of Love (Mercury, 1963) and Shirley Horn with Horns (Mercury, 1963). After parting ways with the label over creative differences, she recorded a number of albums for the Danish Steeplechase label which cemented her reputation as a singular talent. Horn was a devoted wife and mother, so much so that she eschewed touring for many years and instead chose to perform primarily in clubs around the D.C. and Baltimore area.

In 1986, she signed with Verve and made a series of critically acclaimed albums which significantly raised her profile and exposed her to a new generation of jazz fans. During her tenure with Verve, she released fourteen albums and was honored with eight Grammy nominations. She was elected to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Hall of Fame in in 1996, and in 1998, she won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for her tribute to Miles Davis, I Remember Miles. In 1999, she received the Phineas Newborn Jr. Award, along with a tribute concert in her honor. Other honors include a 2003 Jazz at Lincoln Center Award for Artistic Excellence, an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music and inclusion in ASCAP’s Wall of Fame as the 2005 Living Legend. In late 2004, Horn was honored at the Kennedy Center with an all-star tribute concert and was named 2005 NEA Jazz Master, the nation’s highest honor for jazz musicians.

Originally Published