Remembering Dave Brubeck: Legendary Pianist Passes Away

There are few names in jazz that are as big and well known as Dave Brubeck. Often called a visionary, Brubeck is credited with bringing jazz firmly into the modern era with hits as mainstream as “Take Five,” a piano peace that seemed always to be moving forward, leaning ahead, and captivation a new audience with each passing generation. Brubeck was 91 at the time of his death, and he will leave a big gap in the modern jazz piano industry.

To celebrate this titan of jazz piano, it’s worth remembering some of his more interesting moments and quirks. Every artist, it seems, has their fair share of unique stories, disabilities, and triumphs, and Dave Brubeck was no exception.

“Take Five” is Brubeck’s Biggest Hit, But it Isn’t Actually His Song

One of the great misconceptions about Brubeck is that he was solely responsible for creating “Take Five,” a legendary modern jazz number that remains a mainstay in environments as disparate as Starbucks coffee shops and music classrooms. While Brubeck certainly did perform in the released version of the song, which was released under his name at the time, it actually was not the jazz pianist who wrote the piece originally.

In fact, Brubeck’s alto sax player at the time is credited with having written “Take Five.” Though often forgotten in the background alongside Brubeck, the piece is the work of Paul Desmond. Of course, it was Brubeck’s legendary style that made the song what it has become over the past five decades, and for that he deserves a great deal of credit.

Dyslexia Nearly turned Brubeck into a High School Dropout

Though Dave Brubeck’s name is generally associated with the kind of rare musical genius that happens only once a generation, if it happens that frequently, the musicians was not always treated to the easiest of times. He was actually born with one eye so crossed inward that it typically appeared to be entirely white to onlookers. Special glasses as a baby, and as a young child, fixed this problem. The effects, though, lingered throughout his life.

Brubeck suffered from a severe form of dyslexia during his young years, making it hard for him to compete academically. The trials and tribulations of that condition were so severe that he nearly dropped out of school. Later in his life, the problem would manifest itself as a form of “musical dyslexia” that made it hard for Brubeck to read music and follow rhythms while playing. Like all great artists, of course, the jazz star overcame these hurdles and used them to more thoroughly develop his craft. It’s one of the most remarkable stories in modern music.

A Major Loss for the Modern Jazz Movement

Brubeck was one of the most transformative figures when he burst on the scene in the early 1950s, gracing the cover of TIME Magazine and bringing an entirely new generation into the fold with popular jazz hits. His genius, and his careful creation of masterful jazz piano pieces, will be sorely missed among today’s professional and aspiring pianists. One can only hope that a new mind will come along to challenge today’s conventional wisdom, pushing music forward in an equally dynamic way. Until then, Dave Brubeck will remain the face of modern jazz piano.

Brubeck was one of the most transformative figures when he burst on the scene in the early 1950s, gracing the cover of TIME Magazine and bringing an entirely new generation into the fold with popular jazz hits. His genius, and his careful creation of masterful jazz piano pieces, will be sorely missed among today’s professional and aspiring pianists. One can only hope that a new mind will come along to challenge today’s conventional wisdom, pushing music forward in an equally dynamic way. Until then, Dave Brubeck will remain the face of modern jazz piano.

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