Ramsey Lewis, the renowned jazz pianist whose 1965 recording of ‘The In Crowd’ became a Top 10 hit, has died. The news was announced by Lewis’ wife Jan. No cause of death was provided. He was 87.
Lewis was born in Chicago in 1935 and first took piano lessons at age four. He joined his first jazz group, the Clefs, when he was in high school, and went on to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio with two of its band members who weren’t drafted into the military, Eldee Young and Redd Holt. After signing a deal with Chess Records, they released their first album, Ramsey Lewis & His Gentlemen of Jazz, In 1965, their version of ‘The In Crowd’ became a crossover pop hit, earning Lewis his first gold record and a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance. After Holt and Young left to form their own band, Lewis founded a new trio with Cleveland Eaton on bass and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White on drums.
Lewis recorded a total of 80 albums over the course of his career. In 2007, he won the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Master Award, and received an honorary doctorate from Loyola University Chicago the following year. Lewis’ last album was 2021’s Manha de Carnaval. His memoir is scheduled to be published next year.
“Ramsey’s passion for music was truly fueled by the love and dedication of his fans across the globe,” Jan Lewis wrote in a statement. “He loved touring and meeting music lovers from so many cultures and walks of life. It was our family’s great pleasure to share Ramsey in this special way with all those who admired his God-given talents. We are forever grateful for your support.”