Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Played with Bird, part 6: RIP Dick Johnson

From Enterprisenews.com --

Brockton jazz great Dick Johnson dies at 84

Dick Johnson, a nationally known jazz musician and longtime city resident, died Sunday in Boston at the age of 84.

Widely considered a master of the clarinet, Johnson had a long musical career that included leading the acclaimed Artie Shaw Band for more than two decades.

“Dick was a giant, a fabulous, fabulous musician known all over the U.S.,” said Vincent Macrina, longtime Brockton school music director.

Johnson grew up in Brockton and graduated from Brockton High in 1943.

He began his musical career as a member of the U.S. Navy band, and would go on to tour with big bands before returning to live in his home city.

While living in Brockton, he formed several jazz groups and became a staple on the Boston music scene.

Among the luminaries he performed or recorded with over the years were Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Dizzy Gillespie, according to his obituary.

In 1983, Johnson was hand-picked by jazz legend Artie Shaw to lead a re-formed version of Shaw’s famous band.

Johnson headed the Artie Shaw Band until 2006, performing at events including the inaugural ball for President George H.W. Bush and the dedication of the National World War II Memorial.

Johnson also paid numerous visits to his alma mater over the years, often stopping in to work with band students, Macrina said.

In 1999, city officials declared May 1 to be “Dick Johnson Day,” and Johnson spent the day meeting students and ultimately performing alongside school band members at Brockton High.

We missed Dick on our "played with Bird" list, and now he's gone. Anyone who gives this much to the music world and to the kids in his community deserves to be remembered.

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