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Ramsey Lewis, Renowned Jazz Pianist and Pop Star, Dies at 87

KPLU Radio, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A piano prodigy who transcended his work as one of America's finest jazz musicians to become a pop star, Ramsey Lewis, has died.

According to his son, Bobby Lewis, the three-time Grammy Award winner died peacefully in his sleep Monday night at his Chicago home. He was 87.

“Most people say when they met dad that he was a class act," Lewis told The Associated Press of his father's passing. "He was that way even through his last breath.”

A Chicago native, the elder Lewis began playing piano at four. He found jazz and popular music success in the 1960s with his acclaimed Ramsey Lewis Trio, thanks to hits like "The 'In' Crowd," “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water.”

The three records' fusion of gospel, R&B and rock —spurred on by Lewis' play on the piano made them million-plus sellers and they account for three of his seven gold records.

"The 'In' Crowd," an instrumental cover of Dobie Gray's R&B hit from 1964, was the group's most popular effort. It peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965 and No. 2 on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart.

Throughout a career that spanned six decades, Lewis toured around the world, released more than 80 albums, performed with titans of music like Aretha Franklin and Tony Bennett and played for heads of state.

Following the news of his death several friends, fans and contemporaries took to the internet to mourn his passing.

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote on Twitter, "RamseyLewis, from Chicago’s West Side & one of the greatest musicians of all time, has died. For more than 40 years, we were neighbors. Our children grew up together."

Jackson added, "He had a kinship with musicians."

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