Chick Corea dies age 79 from rare form of cancer.

Written by | News, obituary

Sadly we woke today to the news that Chick Corea has passed away aged 79. According to a post on his Facebook page he was diagnosed with “a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently.”

In the same post he shared a message to those he knew: “I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.

“And to my amazing musician friends who have been like family to me as long as I’ve known you: It has been a blessing and an honor learning from and playing with all of you. My mission has always been to bring the joy of creating anywhere I could, and to have done so with all the artists that I admire so dearly—this has been the richness of my life.”

How does one sum up the impact that Chick Corea had on our genre of music and the inspiration he had become for generations, myself included.

Rolling stone wrote:

In the early Sixties, Corea established himself as an A-list pianist, working with Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, and others. Later in the decade, he joined Miles Davis’ band and played a key role in helping the trumpeter make the transition to a more contemporary, plugged-in sound on albums like Bitches Brew. Following his work with Davis, he formed his own groundbreaking electric band, Return to Forever, which played some of the most vibrant and dynamic music of the fusion era. In the ensuing decades, Corea threw himself into countless projects, showing off his limitless range — from a refined duo with vibraphonist Gary Burton to his trendsetting Elektric Band. His most recent album, the 2020 live solo disc Plays, showed off his wildly diverse skill set and body of influences, touching on classical pieces, bebop, and more.

During his career he recorded close on 90 albums as a leader or co-leader and had won more Grammy awards than any other musician, 23 in total including 3 Latin Grammys. In 2006 he was awarded one of the greatest honors available to an American jazz musician, namely the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master award.

Scott Thompson and Chick Corea Photo credit: Ernest Gregory

I’d like to share a personal interaction I had with Chick on the day it was announced back in 1991 that Miles Davis had passed away. It was the day that jazz lost its living leader. Everything changed. I was an upcoming young journalist. Having worked in radio for more than 15 years already, I had interviewed just about everybody I wanted to. It is a very rewarding gift to be able to speak with those in the world you most respect.

On this particular day I had a scheduled phone interview with Chick Corea. I was excited, nervous and honored! Preparing for an interview is most important. A person can tell in a second if you know what you’re talking about… if you even listened to his music or know his history.

Chick and I hit it off. We spoke as friends. Both living and loving music. He played it. I wrote about it. The interview lasted about 45 minutes. A long phone chat. By the end of our conversation, we had become friends. Today that interview is in a box somewhere in a storage unit with so many other treasured conversations with the giants.

Suddenly on the TV news I see a bulletin: Miles Davis Dead! I couldn’t believe it! I immediately called back Chick and asked him if he had heard the news. ‘What news?, his response. I was the one that had to break the news to him that Miles had died. We had just spoken of his recording on Bitches Brew and so much more. We were both speechless. In shock. Later that day, Chick sent me this very moving memory of the monumental Miles Davis.

Miles (A letter from Chick Corea to Scott H. Thompson)

Chick Corea is survived by his wife vocalist and pianist Gayle Moran and his children and grandchildren.

Last modified: February 12, 2021