Venerated pianist Henry Butler and a man whom OffBeat‘s Geraldine Wyckoff called a “vocal genius” has passed away in his adopted home of New York City. The New Orleans native succumbed to metastatic colon cancer on Monday, July 2, at the age of 69.
Butler was diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2016, and a successful GoFundMe was launched to raise money for specialized treatment in Germany.
Butler’s solo discography stretches back to 1986’s Fivin’ Around (OffBeat reviewed his 2008 Basin Street Records effort, PiaNOLA Live) and is bookended by 2014’s Viper’s Drag, a project released in collaboration with Steven Bernstein & The Hot 9. This year, he performed at Jazz Fast (as he did in 2017) with his Jambalaya Band. In 2015, he was the guest of honor at WWOZ’s Piano Night, where he was saluted by such greats as Robert Glasper, Nigel Hall, Ike Stubblefield, David Torkanowsky and others.
In a tribute post to the WWOZ blog, Henry Butler is remembered as a triumphant performer who, despite being blinded by glaucoma at birth, went on to spawn an illustrious career. “One of the premier torchbearers of the New Orleans jazz and blues piano tradition, Butler played for audiences across the world for decades,” writes WWOZ.
In the video below, which was shared exclusively on OffBeat.com in 2015, Henry Butler performs “The Game Has Just Begun” on Louisiana Jukebox.
OffBeat sends its condolences to the Butler family and his millions of fans worldwide, including us. Thank you for the music, Henry.