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Bernard Wright, Acclaimed Musician Heavily Sampled By Hip-Hop Heavyweights, Dead at 58

Photo Credit: Instagram @nardynardd
Bernard Wright, the acclaimed funk, soul and jazz musician who rose to national prominence in the 1980s with the release of his trademark hit "Who Do You Love," is dead at 58.

A statement shared Friday (May 19) on Facebook on behalf of Wright's family by former Jamaica Boys bandleader Billy “Spaceman” Patterson confirmed the death.

“On behalf of the family of Bernard Wright (Nard), we are saddened to announce that yesterday Bernard has been called home to the Most High,” Patterson wrote. “Many thanks for everyone’s support, encouragement, and prayers for Nard throughout the years. Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers through this difficult time."

He ended the post with, "Our hearts are heavy and our faith is strong. To be absent from the body is to be present with The Lord! LOVE! Rest In Power, Nard.”

The cause of his death has yet to be disclosed, but Wright's impact on the music world is undeniable.

In addition to finding his own success on the charts with albums like 1985's "Mr. Wright," which reached No. 25 on Billboard's U.S. R&B Albums chart — helped in part by the aforementioned lead single "Who Do You Love," which peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart, Wright's music was heavily sampled and inspired some of rap's biggest hits of the '80s and '90s.

LL Cool J's 1995 hit single, "Loungin'" prominently sampled "Who Do You Love." Skee-Lo’s 1995 hit “I Wish,” sampled Wright’s 1981 single “Spinnin'" from his debut album "'Nard." And Snoop Dogg and Tupac both borrowed from the track “Haboglabotribin',” off the same album, for their songs “Gz & Hustlas” and “Lie To Kick It" respectively.

Born in Queens, New York, in 1963 Wright was the godson of legendary R&B singer Roberta Flack. Wright, who attended the High School of Performing Arts in New York, was a music prodigy. He was offered a touring slot with legendary jazz drummer Lenny White at the age of 13, and when he was 16 he played with trumpet impresario Tom Browne.

"Nard," released in 1981 when Wright was 18-years-old, reached No. 53 on the Billboard U.S. R&B Album chart and No. 7 on Billboard's U.S. Jazz Album chart, setting the table for his success as both a solo musician and a featured contributor on the hits of other artists such as Miles Davis, Bobby Brown, Doug E. Fresh, and many others.

In the '90s Wright made the transition to gospel music after the release of his first three albums and matched his secular output with three releases in that genre, before eventually moving to Texas where he became a fixture in the Dallas music scene.

Playing keyboards at popular jazz and funk venues across the city, and regularly popping up to make cameos alongside the city's younger generation of jazz, hip-hop and R&B performers, Wright was known as a mentor as well.

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