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Get To Know Grover Washington, Popular American Jazz Saxophonist

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Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Grover Washington was a popular American jazz saxophonist with a soul-jazz and jazz funk style, as well as a songwriter. Grover Washington Sr., a tenor saxophonist, and Lillian Washington, a church chorister, raised him in Buffalo, New York, on December 12, 1943. Washington was surrounded by musicians, including a brother who was a church organist and another who played the drums.

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Washington’s father handed him a saxophone when he was eight years old, despite the fact that his initial love was classical music. Washington was a baritone saxophonist in the all-city high school band in high school. Elvin Shepherd, a great trumpeter and saxophonist, also taught him chord progressions. Washington left Buffalo at the age of 16 to join the Four Clefs, a Midwest ensemble, and performed with them from 1959 until 1963. After the Four Clefs disbanded, Washington joined Keith McAllister’s Mark III Trio from Mansfield, Ohio.

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Washington was enlisted into the United States Army in 1965. During this period, he met Billy Cobham, a well-known Panamanian American jazz drummer. Washington began freelancing his musical abilities in New York City and Philadelphia after leaving the military in 1967. Inner City Blues, his first album, was released in 1971 on the Kudu Records label.

Mister Magic, Washington’s fourth album, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B album list and No. 10 on Billboard’s Top 40 album chart in 1974. Washington released Just the Two of Us on Elektra Records in February 1981. “Just the Two of Us,” the album’s title track, featured Bill Withers on vocals. The song, written by Withers, William Salter, and Ralph MacDonald and produced by Washington and Ralph MacDonald, became Washington’s biggest hit. It peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 list, went platinum (selling over one million records), and won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1982.

Will Smith covered (remade) the song on his 1997 Big Willie Style album, and it was featured in the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, sung to Mini-Me by Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) (Verne Troyer). It was also used in a 2019 episode of “The Neighborhood,” where Calvin (Cedric the Entertainer) and Tina (Tichina Arnold) sang it to each other.

Grover Washington Jr. died on December 17, 1999, while waiting in a green room after taping four songs for CBS’s The Early Show. He was taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and died at 7:30 p.m. from a massive heart attack. Washington was 56 years old at the time. Many pop, R&B, and jazz artists continue to be inspired by and celebrate his legacy and music.

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Written by How Africa News

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