I submit Bernie Worrell as the perfect model artist for this new age.
True, he came from the classic music world, at least the black side of it.
But before that he came from music conservatory and a strict granny. He married and stayed married. He collaborated with / shared time with / mentored / loved thousands of other artists.
Money and hype were always secondary with Bernie and he died working, playing music, creating and sharing constantly.
He died a strong and noble warrior for all that is good with music and people.
His musical legacy is still being discovered, even by funkateers and big fans.
His solo catalog will need fine curation and promotion to earn him the mainstream recognition he deserves as a true genius of 20th & 21st century composition and improvisation.
In Bernie’s last years, he embarked on a musical recording journey that every living artist should consider imitating. Consider the albums he released in the decade before he died:
- Standards – Standards
- Improvisation – Improvisczario
- Solo instrument – Elevation: The Upper Air
- Retrospective of greatest hits re-played solo – Retrospectives
That’s 4 very brave and different modes to be in. He did these projects while constantly touring with his small orchestra of new generation players called The Bernie Worrell Orchestra. He also played music whenever, wherever.
Each of those projects lets you get closer with the artist and put context to their entire catalog. You get to hear their influences and their perspective on their own place in the musical universe. The genius speaks through music.
I believe that talented people are a precious commodity and should be protected and celebrated. We’ve lost quite a few of them recently. Hopefully their legend grows after their passing.