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Pianist Mike Melvoin Dies at 74

Diverse stylist played with everyone from Stan Getz to Beach Boys to Streisand

Mike Melvoin, a Los Angeles-based pianist since the early ’60s, whose vast résumé included contributions to recordings by a diverse roster that included Frank Sinatra (his single “That’s Life”), Stan Getz, John Lennon, Natalie Cole, Tom Waits, the Beach Boys (he played on their iconic “Good Vibrations” single and Pet Sounds album), Barbra Streisand, the Jackson 5, Tony Bennett and many others, died Feb. 22 in Burbank, Calif. He was 74 and the cause was cancer.

Born in Oshkosh, Wis., in 1937, Melvoin graduated from Dartmouth College in 1959 and moved to L.A. two years later. He quickly became a “first call” pianist for sessions involving artists in both jazz and pop, working with such artists as Frank Rosolino, Leroy Vinnegar, Gerald Wilson, Paul Horn, Terry Gibbs, Joe Williams and Peggy Lee. The majority of his work took place in the studios of L.A. but he also performed in clubs, accompanying singer Bill Henderson and playing with Herb Ellis and Plas Johnson.

Melvoin’s debut album as a leader was Keys to Your Mind on the Liberty label in 1966. He followed that with several others through the decades, most recently recording a series of albums for the City Light label.

Melvoin was also the first active musician to serve as national president of the Recording Academy.

Melvoin’s daughters Susannah and Wendy were members of Prince’s group the Revolution and his son Jonathan, a member of the rock band Smashing Pumpkins, died of a drug overdose in 1996 at age 34.

Originally Published