The legendary, and hugely influential, George Duke passed away this week. While it is hard to put his multi-faceted 40 year career into words, we are grateful that Mark Anthony Neal (@NewBlackMan) gave Musiqology Editor in Chief, Guthrie Ramsey, the space to process Duke’s influence on Dr. Guy’s own musical journey as well as this tremendous loss to the musical world
~Fredara M. Hadley, Musiqology Managing Editor
When I learned he had passed away a couple of days ago, it came as a complete shock. For some reason his latest CD Dreamweaver had been on repeat during my daily listenings. I was particularly hooked on “Brown Sneakers,” which features electric bassist Michael Manson, a phenomenal musician I grew up with. The last time I saw George Duke play he and Mike were laying it down for real at the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival a couple of summers ago. (Their contrapuntal work on “Brown Sneakers” knocks me out).
What I loved about it—and I think this is what we all loved and will miss—is how he, like few others, could connect with audiences. As he rolled through his song list, we were lifted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He had us in the palm of his talented hands. It was like church at the jazz fest.
I listened to Jamal Ahmad’s The Soul of Jazz thorough and thrilling four-hour tribute to Duke on WCLK, Atlanta and was stunned at the breadth of his work, how timely it sounded, the sheer volume of it all and its remarkable consistency. As the songs rolled out, I also realized that because of that consistency, George Duke’s music had been there with me, marking my time in the world at every stage of my adult life. He would always manage to drop a tune that I would seize on and repeat until times got better. And I would celebrate to his music: he was always perfect for the party, as any DJ—professional or jackleg—knows.