Having sold more than 15,000,000 LPs throughout the course of his illustrious career, legendary pianist George Winston passed away on Sunday (6.04) at the age of 73.
Having battled cancer for a decade and a bone marrow transplant in 2013, the musician’s death was confirmed via his website.
With a trio of certified platinum records, Autumn, Winter Into Spring, and December, Winston rose to prominence in the 1980s. His repertoire fused elements of classical, jazz, folk, ambient, and New Age music, or as Winston put it in a Q&A for his website, he always called his “melodic style” of play “Folk Piano” or “Rural Folk Piano.”
“It is melodic and not complicated in its approach, like folk guitar picking and folk songs, and has a rural sensibility,” he said, adding: “Any other labels, including anything having to do with anything philosophical, or spiritual, or any beliefs, are also not accurate, as I have no interest in those subjects. I just play the songs the best I can, inspired by the seasons and the topographies and regions, and, occasionally, by sociological elements, and try to improve as a player over time.”
Following his three mega-successful full lengths, Winston partnered with superstar thespian Meryl Streep for The Velveteen Rabbit, a special album where his music was accompanied by the actress’ recitation of Margery Williams classic children’s story of the same name. In 1988, Winston provided music for This Is America, Charlie Brown, an eight-part miniseries about American history featuring Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts characters. And in 1994, he won the Grammy for Best New Age album for his LP, Forest.
Throughout his career, George pushed the boundaries of his talent by releasing a full album tribute to the Doors, Night Divides the Day, (2002,) Montana: A Love Story (2004) that included interpretations of songs by Frank Zappa and Sam Cooke, and Restless Wind that featured takes on George Gershwin and Stephen Stills tunes. (2019.)
Winston frequently used his unique talents to promote charitable causes, releasing LPs that benefited cancer research, the preservation of the Louisiana Wetlands, the victims of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. And in addition to his solo piano work, he released albums of solo harmonica and acoustic guitar, and ran his own label, Dancing Cat Records, where he dropped a collection of albums by Hawaiian slack-key guitarists.
Even as his health deteriorated, Winston continued to write and record what was to be his swan song project, Night, in May 2022, interpreting songs by Allen Toussaint, Leonard Cohen, and Laura Nyro.