Ramsey Lewis  

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Ramsey Lewis (1935 – 2022) was an American pianist and occasional composer working in the smooth jazz idiom. Lewis recorded over 80 albums, most of them featuring cover songs. He is known for such recordings as "The 'In' Crowd" (1965), "Wade in the Water" (1966), "Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn)" (1968), "Sun Goddess" (1974) and "Les Fleurs" (1983).


Ramsey Lewis was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Ramsey Lewis Sr. and Pauline Lewis. He began taking piano lessons at the age of four. As a young man, Lewis played with a number of local ensembles, such as Edward Virgil Abner's Knights of Music. Lewis would eventually join a jazz group called the clefs. He later formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio with drummer Isaac "Red" Holt and bassist Eldee Young. They eventually joined up with Chess Records.

In 1956, the trio issued their debut album, Ramsey Lewis and his Gentle-men of Swing. Following their 1965 hit "The In Crowd" (the single reached No. 5 on the pop charts, and the album No. 2) they concentrated more on pop material. Young and Holt left in 1966 to form Young-Holt Unlimited and were replaced by Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White. White left to form Earth, Wind & Fire and was replaced by Morris Jennings in 1970. Later, Frankie Donaldson and Bill Dickens replaced Jennings and Eaton; Felton Crews also appeared on many 1980s releases.

By 1966, Lewis was one of the nation's most successful jazz pianists, having topped the charts with "The In Crowd", "Hang On Sloopy", and "Wade in the Water". All three singles each sold over one million copies and were awarded gold discs. Many of his recordings attracted a large non-jazz audience. In the 1970s, Lewis often played electric piano, although by later in the decade he was sticking to acoustic and using an additional keyboardist in his groups.

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