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Creative jazz musician and producer George Duke dies at 67

Ron Scott | 8/15/2013, 11:58 a.m. | Updated on 8/15/2013, 11:58 a.m.
George Duke, the uncomplacent keyboardist, arranger, producer and singer who stayed energized by crossing and mixing the genres of funk, ...
George Duke

Duke appeared and produced two tracks on Davis’ “Tutu” (1986) and “Amandla (1989). For his album “A Brazilian Love Affair” (recorded in Brazil), he employed noted Brazilian vocalists Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento and Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira.

As a solo artist, Duke released more than 30 albums, including the funk-based “Reach for It” and “Dukey Stick.” He appeared on the title track and “Girl Friend” on Michael Jackson’s hit album “Off the Wall.”

In 1984, he produced Deniece Williams’ No. 1 hit “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” (on the “Footloose” film soundtrack). He also produced for Jeffrey Osborne, Angela Bofill, A Taste of Honey, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole and jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves, who was his cousin.

Duke was the musical director for the Soul Train Music Awards, and he scored songs on the “The Five Heartbeats” and the “Karate Kid III” sountracks.

Duke was born on Jan. 12, 1946, in San Rafael, Calif. He grew up listening to gospel music in the Baptist church his family attended. The 1992 film “Leap of Faith” featured gospel songs and choir produced by Duke and choir master Edwin Hawkins.

He is survived by his two sons, John and Rashid.

Duke was scheduled to perform at the B.B. King Blues Club in Times Square last Saturday night. In honor of Duke, the show went on with special guest Roy Ayers and his band. During the tribute performance, the club also collected donations for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.