Back when I was in high school, I was given a stack of records from a flamboyant, yet stylish coworker who, at the time, was shifting to the more “modern” tape cassettes. Among the records that he gave me were several from George Shearing. I instantly fell in love with George’s piano playing. When I discovered that he was also blind, I was hooked. He was a genius in my mind. I spent the next decade or so collecting every album that I could find of his, and he made a bunch. He collaborated with lots of other musicians including Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, and Nancy Wilson, and I think I have at least 20 of his LPs.
George Shearing died today at the age of 91, and I’m incredibly sad about it. How I would have loved to have seen him perform. But, I do feel very fortunate to have my George Shearing record collection and to have been exposed to his music at such a young age.
When Randy and I have romantic dinners, I always put on George Shearing. His version of Autumn in New York is among my top five favorite songs of all times. He was a true classic.
Like many of the people who inspire me, George Shearing overcame huge obstacles before he found success. He was the youngest of nine children, born blind to working class parents. His dad delivered coal, and his mother cleaned trains. Yet, he began learning piano at the age of three. He moved to the United States in 1947, and quickly started churning out hit songs including “Lullaby of Birdland” which is probably his most famous. He kept playing piano until he could no longer play. Retirement in the traditional sense just wasn’t an option for George. He was a musician until the day he died.
Music has played such an important part in my life, and George Shearing stands out amongst all of my favorites. I’ll miss you George, and hope that you’ll finally now be able to see all of the joy that you’ve given to music lovers like me around the world.
So, I leave you today with a favorite of mine from George Shearing. I hope you’ll like it as much as I do….