Jazz great Shirley Horn died on Thursday (Oct 20) after a lengthy battle with illness. She was 71 years old.
Horn, whose intimate vocal style became a hallmark, was first brought to the public's attention in 1960 when Miles Davis asked her to open for him at New York's Village Vanguard after hearing Horn's debut album, Embers and Ashes. As a result, Horn was signed to Mercury Records, making two albums with friend and producer Quincy Jones.
Despite emerging acclaim for her work, Horn toured little and eventually left Mercury due to creative differences and a desire to spend more time with her daughter. Horn enjoyed a career renaissance, however, after signing with Verve Records in 1986, releasing 14 albums on the label and garnering eight Grammy nominations in the process. She won her first Grammy in 1998 for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for her tribute to Miles Davis, entitled I Remember Miles.
Horn was born in Washington, D.C. and began playing classical piano at the age of 10. At 18, she was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Julliard School of Music but opted to attend nearby Howard University instead, due to the financial burden involved in moving to New York City. It was at Howard that Horn made the transition from classical to jazz and formed her first jazz trio.
In recent years, Horn had been elected to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Hall of Fame, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Wall of Fame and had been named the 2005 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.
Horn had been in ill health for some time, struggling with diabetes, breast cancer and a recent stroke. She died at the Gladys Spellman Nursing Home in Cheverly, MD, near her Washington, D.C. home. She is survived by her husband, daughter and two grandchildren.
Writer: Neil McDonald