Jazz Icon, Chicago Native Ramsey Lewis Dies at 87

Lewis won three Grammy awards and had a career in music spanning more than six decades

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Ramsey Lewis, a three-time Grammy award winner and acclaimed jazz musician of over 60 years, died at his home in Chicago on Monday, according to a statement released from his family. Lewis was 87 years old.

Lewis, a native of Chicago who grew up in the Cabrini-Green public housing project, began his path to becoming a jazz icon at a young age, starting piano lessons at age 4. Lewis was aided played piano at church, where his father was a choir director who encouraged him to pursue music.

His storied career began in earnest when he was a freshman at Wells High School, joining forces with fellow church musician Wallace Burton's band, known as "The Clefs", a band blending jazz and R&B.

After the military draft during the Korean War claimed several members of The Clefs, Lewis formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio with the remaining members, releasing their first album together in 1956.

Lewis scored a mainstream breakthrough in 1965 with the hit single "The In Crowd", showcasing his signature combination of jazz, funk and R&B elements. The song went on to win a Grammy award for Best Jazz Performance from a Small Group.

Lewis would win two more Grammys in 1966 and 1973 respectively, winning three of the four awards he was nominated for throughout his career.

According to his family, Lewis spent the final year of his life working on a memoir with a co-writer. The book, "Gentleman of Jazz," will be released in 2023.

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