Les McCann, a celebrated jazz pianist and vocalist, passed away on December 29, 2023, at the age of 88. He succumbed to pneumonia at a Los Angeles hospital.
McCann was renowned for his soulful voice and distinctive piano style, leaving an indelible mark on the subgenre of soul jazz.
Over his illustrious career, he released over 50 albums, with the 1969 hit “Compared to What” standing out as his greatest commercial success.
The song, penned by his friend Gene McDaniels, became a cultural landmark and a defining piece of McCann’s musical legacy.
McCann’s life journey included early piano lessons from a music teacher who charged a modest 35 cents per lesson. During high school, he showcased his musical versatility by playing drums and sousaphone in the marching band.
A significant chapter in his career unfolded when he became the inaugural artist in residence at Harvard University’s Learning From Performers program.
His fruitful collaboration with Atlantic Records yielded a dozen albums from the late ’60s to the mid-’70s, during which he also discovered and recommended Roberta Flack to the label.
In the 1990s, McCann faced a health setback with a stroke, prompting a shift in focus to painting and photography. Despite the challenges, he staged a comeback with notable releases, including “Pump It Up” in 2002.
Les McCann’s legacy extends beyond his musical achievements, encompassing his contributions to the development of soul jazz and his influence on fellow artists.
His journey from humble beginnings to musical stardom, marked by resilience and creativity, ensures his lasting impact on the world of jazz.
Les McCann Children: Does Les McCann Have Any Children?
Yes, he has a daughter, but we currently do not know the number of his children or the name of his daughter, he is known to be married to Charlotte.
Get to Know Les McCann
Leslie Coleman McCann, born on September 23, 1935, in Lexington, Kentucky, was a renowned musician known for his contributions to jazz and soul jazz.
His journey began in the Navy, where he won a singing contest and even appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. After leaving the Navy, McCann moved to California, forming his own trio.
In 1959, the trio performed at the Purple Onion club, accompanying Gene McDaniels. McCann’s significant career took off in the early 1960s, recording as a pianist with his trio for Pacific Jazz.
A pivotal moment came in 1969 when Atlantic released “Swiss Movement,” an album recorded with saxophonist Eddie Harris and trumpeter Benny Bailey at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
The standout track, “Compared to What,” a critique of the Vietnam War, reached the Billboard pop charts. McCann, primarily a pianist, shifted focus to vocals, becoming an innovator in soul jazz, blending jazz with funk, soul, and world rhythms, utilizing electric piano, clavinet, and synthesizer.
In 1971, McCann and Harris joined a group of performers for a concert in Accra, Ghana, documented in the film “Soul to Soul.” Despite a mid-1990s stroke, McCann returned to music in 2002 with “Pump it Up” and continued releasing music until 2018. He also showcased his talents as a painter and photographer.
Tragically, McCann succumbed to pneumonia in a Los Angeles hospital on December 29, 2023, at 88. His recordings left a lasting impact, widely sampled in hip hop by acts like A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill, and the Notorious B.I.G., among many others.