A bit late on this post but it does not really matter as Toots Thielemans was a timeless artist. His life and music were extraordinary. If you want to read the standard obit, peruse the the New York Times – Toots NY Times Obit. We will be hearing his music for years to come and his genius will live on.
If you want my take on great Toots Thielemans albums see https://sfjournal.net/blog/essential-toots-thielemans-albums/
As the year came to and end it was interesting that there was a lot of media covering the musicians who passed away in 2016. Prince, Bowie and George Michael seemed to get all the press. Interesting artists for sure but their lives and music were retold incessantly in print and on the radio. Toots on the other hand lived to 94, at least 30 years longer than the three above and played in so many genres and eras it was a life that had a Forrest Gump quality. He was places that defined music and art for years. Imagine in the late 40s playing with Charlie Parker and then Benny Goodman the next year – two people who were at the top of American music but in very different social and cultural worlds. For many years he was working in New York just scraping along, playing jazz gigs and studio dates – TV commercials and movies. Then an amazing era where he played Brazilian music. A few years on salary with ABC studios. Imagine that happening today!
One thing left out of the usual obits is the fact that where he finally made some money was with writing a song called Ladyfingers that was recorded on Herb Albert’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights It was a simple little ditty but with every album sold – over a million, Toots got a penny. So he took his $100,000 and bought a house and probably breathed a bit easier.
There is an interesting eBook you can read about Toots written by his friend Paula Marckx. If is more like just hanging out with Toots for a few hours but fun to get his take on his life and the twentieth century.
The Sound of Toots Thielemans
by Paula Marckx
Within the book are a lot of links to unusual videos. Toots traveled a lot and did all kinds of commercials. Here is on from 1982 in Japan. Pretty hilarious!
Anyway, rest in peace Toots. Thanks for all the great music. Most people probably have heard Toots from the theme to Sesame Street and various pop albums. One that I remember that had that enchanting Toots Thielemans solos and sound is Night Game by Paul Simon, a song that is never ever covered. Too difficult to pull off with the changing meters and that amazing harmonica solo.
We will be discovering more of Toots work for years to come. It was an epic life.