Marcus Belgrave dies at 78; jazz trumpeter backed Motown stars

Associated Press
Marcus Belgrave, a jazz trumpeter who backed Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Motown stars, dies at age 78

Marcus Belgrave, a jazz trumpeter who shared the stage and recording studio with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Cocker and a string of Motown artists, has died. He was 78.

Belgrave died Sunday of heart failure at an Ann Arbor, Mich., care facility, said Hazelette Crosby-Robinson, a cousin of Belgrave's wife Joan. He was 78

Belgrave remained active on the Detroit and international jazz scenes up until his death. Born into a family of musicians in Chester, Pa., he started playing professionally at 12 and joined the Ray Charles Band in the late 1950s — what he once described as "the beginning of my musical life."

He moved to Detroit in 1962 and became a studio musician for Motown Records, playing on hits including "My Girl," "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and "Dancing in the Street."

After Motown decamped to California in the early '70s, Belgrave stayed in Detroit and co-founded Tribe Records and recorded with a collective of jazz artists.

He became an original member of Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in 1988 at the request of Wynton Marsalis, and in 2006 was featured at the Jazz at Lincoln Center's presentation "Detroit: Motor City Jazz."

Belgrave also was a prolific mentor and teacher, serving as a professor or visiting artist at numerous institutions, including Michigan State University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley and Oberlin College.

In 2009, he received the Kresge Foundation's Eminent Artist award, honoring nationally acclaimed artists who have pursued careers in Detroit. In a special book the philanthropic foundation published at that time, Belgrave said, "After 65 years of letting the music live through you, it just comes to you."

Kresge President and Chief Executive Rip Rapson said in a statement that "Detroit has lost a piece of its soul."

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