Al Jarreau passed away on Sunday (February 12) at the age of 76. He had just retired from touring, effectively, due to exhaustion.
At first glance it would appear that Al made a minor contribution to popular music, what with only three Top 40 hits. That’s nowhere near the full story. His works reached the Hot 100 eight times, but it’s the R&B and Jazz charts where we really see Jarreau’s contributions. He held the #1 position on the Jazz LP’s chart six different times (with two other albums stalling at #2 and one at #3), the last time in 2006. He put 23 different singles onto the R&B charts as well, and the subject of this piece – “Moonlighting” – was the #1 song on the Adult Contemporary charts in 1987. Put bluntly, there simply is not an audience that Al Jarreau didn’t reach.
Younger readers of the blog may not recognize the name. Allow me to hum for you, electronically, the songs that I am sure you have heard before. His biggest Top 40 success came in 1981 with “We’re In This Love Together.” 1983 saw the release of “Mornin‘,” a song that always seemed to come up on my music log in the overnight hours at WJTW. That was my first real introduction to his work – as a rocker at heart, I didn’t gain an appreciation for crossover forms of jazz until much later.
It was also while I was at WJTW – and in college – that Moonlighting became a television phenomenon. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of the show: I was eighteen at the time, and romantic comedies typically don’t play well with 18-year-old guys. But there was no denying the impact that the show had on popular music, both good (it returned the Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart Of Mine” to the spotlight) and bad (it led to Bruce Willis releasing the The Return of Bruno LP). Al Jarreau provided the theme song for the show, and it turned out to be his last major hit with white America.
Sometimes the world’s a little hectic, and you need to relax. When these times hit you, I recommend the sultry sounds of Al Jarreau. Trust me.
Relive the Maddy and David mania again for just a second by clicking here.