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Donald Byrd Dead at 80

Donald byrd - off to the races
Blue Note

Legendary jazz musician Donald Byrd passed away on Monday Feb. 4, according to a report on Amoeba.

The news was given by Byrd’s nephew, Alex Bugnon. Bugnon says the family tried to keep the death a secret and felt it was “unnecessary” to do so anymore. The cause of death is still unknown.

Byrd’s sound had a huge impact on hip-hop with Nas sampling his song ‘Flight Time’ on ‘New York State of Mind’ and A Tribe Called Quest sampling ‘Think Twice’ on ‘Footprints.’

R&B records that have taken from Byrd’s catalog include Destiny’s Child‘s ‘Free,’ which sampled ‘Whistler,’ and Erykah Badu‘s ‘Sometimes…,’ which samples his ‘I Feel Like Loving You Today.’

The entertainer was a lifelong lover and learner of music. While he was a masters student at the Manhattan School of Arts, Byrd joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers group, replacing Clifford Brown, who had passed away.

He left the group in 1956, and went on to perform with popular artists Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and later, Herbie Hancock. In the 1970s, he began a successful transition into recording jazz fusion and R&B records. During this period, Byrd’s album, ‘Black Byrd,’ released in 1973, on Blue Note records, became the label’s highest-selling album.

Byrd taught at Rutgers University, Hampton University, Howard University, New York University and Columbia University, where he received his doctorate in 1982.

Listen to Donald Byrd’s ‘Think Twice’


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