Jazz Singer & Guitarist Jackie Washington Passes
Jackie Washington, a cultural icon who spread joy through his music for more than 80 years, has died. The Hamilton jazz and blues singer passed away peacefully at Joseph’s Hospital at 1:22 p.m. today, surrounded by about 15 close family and friends. Washington died from complications resulting from a recent heart attack. He was 89.
Washington was admitted to the hospital’s cardiac care ward two weeks ago after experiencing difficulty breathing. He was moved to the intensive care unit following the heart attack Monday, but never recovered.
He recorded three solo albums – Blues & Sentimental, Keeping Out of Mischief, and Midnight Choo Choo – and four more with friends and collaborators Mose Scarlett and Ken Whiteley – Where Old Friends Meet, Three By Three: Old Friends Meet Again, Sitting On A Rainbow, and We’ll Meet Again. These albums earned him a Juno nomination in 1993. He was also one of Canada’s first black broadcasters, working as a disc jockey playing jazz during the ‘40s and ‘50s for two Hamilton radio stations. As well, he did stints as a railway porter, factory worker, washroom attendant at Duffy’s Tavern, and shoeshine operator at the Fort Erie race track.
Washington had an encyclopedic knowledge of old-time music, listing almost 1,300 songs in his repertoire. He knew most of them by heart. He specialized in the music of the ‘30s and ‘40s and, at his peak, was one of the better scat and jazz stylists in the country. He last performed in public three weeks ago (June 3rd) during a special reception at McMaster’s Convocation Hall to thank him for donating a collection of his music, personal papers, photos and artwork to the university archives.
He was honored many times during his long life, being inducted into the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame in 2002, as well as being granted lifetime achievement awards by the Hamilton Music Awards (2003), the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (2001), the Maple Blues Awards (1998) and the Ontario Arts Council (1991). Washington was also presented with a Hamilton Arts Award in 1984 and inducted into Hamilton’s Gallery of Distinction in 1995.
McMaster University granted him a honorary Doctorate in Humanities in 2003, an extraordinary accomplishment for a man who never completed high school. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.