Ramsey Lewis, the jazz pianist who hit the pop charts, has died, aged 87

Ramsey Lewis
(Image credit: Alain BENAINOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Ramsey Lewis, the jazz pianist who crossed over to the pop charts in 1965 with his trio’s version of The In Crowd, has died at the age of 87, his son has confirmed.

Bobby Lewis says that his father died at his home in Chicago, the city where he was born. “He was just at peace,” he told The Associated Press. “Most people say when they met dad that he was a class act. He was that way even through his last breath.”

Lewis began playing piano at the age of four. The original Ramsey Lewis Trio - featuring Isaac ‘Red’ Holt and bassist Eldee Young - released their debut album, Ramsey Lewis and his Gentle-men of Swing, in 1956.

Following the success of The In Crowd, the trio put more focus on pop material. A new line-up, formed in 1966, featured Cleveland Eaton and bassist Maurice White, who later went on to form Earth, Wind & Fire.

The Ramsey Lewis Trio had further hits with singles Hang On Sloopy and Wade in the Water, and their non-jazz audience continued to grow. In his later years, Lewis also hosted radio shows and presented a 13-episode TV series, Legends of Jazz, in 2006.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.