Dr. Billy Taylor, an American Jazz icon, composer and educator, died in Manhattan on Dec. 28. He was 89.
The influential musician, who also promoted the genre as a broadcaster for National Public Radio and CBS Sunday Morning, died of heart failure, according to his daughter.
Taylor composed more than 350 songs during his six-decade-long recording career, including “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free,” a favorite during the civil rights era.
Taylor was also a celebrated instructor. After earning a master’s degree and a doctorate in music education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he served as a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University, according to his official Web site. Also, his Jazzmobile organization has hosted free concerts and workshops in New York’s inner-city neighborhoods since 1964.
The well-respected pianist was awarded twenty-three honorary doctoral degrees, two Peabody Awards, an Emmy, a Grammy and was elected into the Hall of Fame for the International Association for Jazz Education, among other honors.
“Those who knew him universally speak of his personal warmth, and of his missionary-like zeal for introducing jazz music to people,” NPR staff wrote in an article commemorating Taylor.
Taylor is survived by his wife, Theodora Taylor, and a daughter, Kim Taylor-Thompson.
“He enjoyed his life,” his wife told the Associated Press. “Music was his love.”