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I missed this one (RIP, George Duke)

George Duke died Monday. I just now found out.

I was in high school the first time I saw the name George Duke. It was in the liner notes of Frank Zappa's album Chunga's Revenge. One thing you've got to know about Zappa: The musicians he picked to play with him were excellent—at worst. At best, he hired monster players like Steve Vai, Aynsley Dunbar, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Ian and Ruth Underwood, to name just five.

And George Duke, on keyboards, to name six.

My favorite bit of Zappa-related Dukery came on the album Bongo Fury, in a song called "Advance Romance." Duke is part of the song's narrative, and as we pick up our story, George is being berated by his band mates for a romp with a hooker:

She took George's watch
Like they always do
(It was a Timex, too!)
(Him ashamed on you)
No more money, boy
I shoulda knew
(You know I told ya)
(I know you told me)
(You didn't listen to me)
(But I couldn't listen to you!)
Told you 'bout the anchovies . . .
(You know what I'm talkin' about!)
George Duke!

Zappa fans aren't the only ones who will miss George. He played with a diverse array of artists: Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Billy Cobham, Stanley Clarke and Al Jarreau, to name just a few. Zappa's avant-garde music often defied labels, but Duke was known in jazz, R&B, jazz fusion, funk and hip-hop circles too. He wasn't merely a side man. He released albums with his own bands and worked with other artists in an array of different roles.

All of us music fans go through life missing out on much more good music than we can possibly listen to. I was fortunate to hear George Duke for the first time on that Zappa LP. But I'll always remember him with a smile for:

Told you 'bout the anchovies, George Duke!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 10th, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
Saw this via facebook a day or so ago. We actually have a George Duke jazz cd from ages ago, titled, "Is Love Enough?" - think I'll pop it on now.
Aug. 10th, 2013 04:22 pm (UTC)
One of the great players whose reputation fell far short of his abilities.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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