Legendary jazz musician James Moody succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Dec. 9 at the age of 85. The saxophonist was best known for his surprise hit, “I’m in the Mood for Love.”
Moody was born on March 26, 1925 in Savannah, Ga. with a hearing impairment. Despite that disability, he began playing music at 16, eventually joining an all-Black Army Air Forces band during World War II.
After his discharge from the military, Moody began playing in jazz great Dizzy Gillespie’s band in 1946. Together, the two men are credited with creating the style of jazz referred to as bebop.
In 1949, Moody moved to Europe and at one point was in Stockholm, Sweden to record an album. At the request of a producer, Moody needed one more track to complete the album and chose to improvise the 1930s ballad; “I’m in the Mood for Love.”
Moody’s version became legendary and has been covered by scores of performers, including Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Van Morrison and Amy Winehouse. The best known version of the song was recorded by the singer King Pleasure and released under the title “Moody’s Mood for Love.”
“Moody’s Mood for Love was not a composition; it was purely an improvisation,” Will Friedwald, a music critic, wrote in 2005. “Yet it has lingered in the public consciousness not because of King Pleasure, but because of the solo itself. Although nothing like an anthem, it has become one– a banner of modern jazz and African-American culture.”
Moody performed well into the 21st century while fighting bouts with alcoholism. His latest album, “Moody 4B,” was nominated for a Grammy earlier this month.
Moody is survived by his wife, Linda Peterson McGowan; three sons, Patrick, Regan and Danny McGowan; a daughter, Michelle Moody Bagdanove; a brother, Louis Watters; four grandchildren; and one great-grandson.