Dave Brubeck | 7 Facts About The Jazz Musician


Dave Brubeck was an American jazz pianist and composer. He was one of the biggest stars in the history of Jazz. On 5 December 2012, Dave Brubeck died of heart failure while he was on his way to a cardiology appointment. It was his birthday the very next day and his birthday party was recast as a memorial tribute. Here are 7 interesting facts about Dave Brubeck.


#1 His mother taught him to play piano when he was a kid

Dave Brubeck in the 1950s
Dave Brubeck in the 1950s

Born on December 6, 1920 in Concord, California, Dave Brubeck was the son of Pete Brubeck who was a cattle rancher. His mother Myra Hess used to teach piano for extra money and wanted to be a concert pianist. Dave used to take piano lessons from his mother who thought he had a musical future. She forbade him to use any rope technique that could injure his hand

#2 He wanted to be a rancher like his father

Dave Brubeck initially wanted to be a rancher like his father. Even in college he studied veterinary science initially. After a year however he switched his field of study to music on the advice of the head of zoology in his college who told him “Brubeck, your mind’s not here. It’s across the lawn in the music school. Please go there. Stop wasting my time and yours”.

#3 Dave couldn’t read music due to vision problems

Dave Brubeck in 2009
Dave Brubeck in 2009

Due to vision problems in his youth, Brubeck found it difficult to read sheet music when his mother was teaching him. He was able to hide the problem as his musical ear was so sharp that he could listen to other students play piano exercises and then imitate them. Later in college he was nearly expelled when one of his professors found out that he couldn’t read music. However several of his professors came to his defence saying that his ability with counterpoint and harmony compensated for his inability to read music. The college was still afraid of a scandal and allowed Brubeck to graduate only on the condition that he wouldn’t teach piano.

#4 He formed one of the first racially integrated band in U.S. army

Brubeck was drafted into the army after he graduated in 1942. He played the piano at a Red Cross show and people were so impressed that he was spared from service and ordered to form a band. Dave Brubeck created one of the U.S. armed forces’ first racially integrated bands, “The Wolfpack”. He was appointed bandleader even though he was outranked by the other members.

#5 Brubeck’s Take Five is the best-selling jazz single of all time

In 1951 Dave Brubeck formed a jazz quartet titled the Dave Brubeck Quartet. It featured Brubeck on piano and Paul Desmond on saxophone. After trying a few drummers and bassists, what would later be known as the “Classic Quartet” was complete by 1959 with Joe Morello on drums and Eugene Wright on bass. In the same year the Dave Brubeck Quartet recorded the album Time Out. It quickly went platinum and was the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies. It included the piece “Take Five’, the biggest selling jazz single of all time.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet
The Dave Brubeck Quartet performing


#6 He expanded the boundaries of jazz

TIME Magazine Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck on TIME’s Cover

Brubeck disbanded the quartet in 1967 to concentrate on composing. He went on to compose some 250 jazz pieces and songs. Dave was one of the foremost exponents of progressive jazz. He was a musical innovator who infused jazz with classical influences and expanded the boundaries of the genre. Four of his six children are professional musicians.

#7 Dave Brubeck featured on the cover of TIME magazine

In 1954, Dave Brubeck became the second jazz musician after Louis Armstrong to feature on the cover of Time magazine. In 1996 he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2008, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented Brubeck with a “Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy” for offering an American “vision of hope, opportunity and freedom” through his music.

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