New Orleans musician HAROLD BATTISTE died on Friday 19th June in his native city. Harold was aged 83 and had been suffering from a lengthy illness.
The composer, arranger and performer was born in October 1931 and attended Dillard University where he became proficient on the saxophone and piano. In the late fifties he worked studio sessions and in 1957 he arranged the Sam Cooke classic ‘You Send Me’.
In 1961 Harold set up AFO Records (All For One) and soon scored a hit with Barbara George’s ‘I Know’ ( the tune becoming a staple for 60s UK beat groups). In New Orleans he also worked on recordings for Lee Dorsey and eventually Dr John.
After relocation to LA, Battiste hooked up with Sonny Bono and for a long time was MD for Sonny and Cher; he produced and arranged their pop classic ‘I Got You Babe’. He went on to work with numerous other pop and soul acts – notably Tom Waits. (His other credits include work with the O’Jays, the Fifth Dimension’s Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Art Neville, Larry Williams, Eddie Bo, King Floyd and Willie Tee.)
In the 80s he moved into education eventually establishing the AFO Foundation – a non-profit service and educational organization, which documented the heritage of New Orleans music. He also helped establish the jazz studies programme at the University of New Orleans. Amongst his protégés are the Marsalis children (Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason) as well as Nicholas Payton and Victor Goines. Battiste also lectured on jazz studies at UNO. In return, the City of New Orleans made his birthday (28th October) “Harold Battiste Day”‘