Jazz legend Chick Corea died Tuesday after battling cancer. He was 79.
The 23-time Grammy winner was diagnosed with “a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently,” according to a statement shared to Corea’s Facebook page on Thursday.
Corea left behind a message for “for all those he knew and loved, and for all those who loved him.” It read:
“I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.
“And to my amazing musician friends who have been like family to me as long as I’ve known you: It has been a blessing and an honor learning from and playing with all of you. My mission has always been to bring the joy of creating anywhere I could, and to have done so with all the artists that I admire so dearly—this has been the richness of my life.”
In a November interview with BBC, Corea spoke about how making music gives him the freedom to express himself and explore things.
“Jazz, I see it as this little window. You could call it jazz or you could just call it a choice that you make to make creative music, but it’s this little window in life where you kinda get away with it,” Corea said. “If you communicate well and you engage your listeners and it brings them some kind of pleasure or inspiration then you’ve accomplished the goal of art.”
In 1968, Corea replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’ group, playing on the landmark albums “In a Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew.”
He formed his own avant-garde group, Circle, and then founded Return to Forever. He’s worked on many other projects, including duos with Hancock and vibraphonist Gary Burton. He recorded and performed classical music, standards, solo originals, Latin jazz and tributes to great jazz pianists.
Last year, Corea released the double album “Plays,” which captured him at various concerts armed simply with his piano.
“Like a runner loves to run because it just feels good, I like to play the piano just because it feels good,” he told The Associated Press at the time. “I can just switch gears and go to another direction or go to another song or whatever I want to do. So it’s a constant experiment.”
The double album was a peek into Corea’s musical heart, containing songs he wrote about children decades ago as well as tunes by Mozart, Thelonious Monk and Stevie Wonder, among others.
Corea is the artist with the most jazz Grammys in the show’s 63-year history, and he has a chance to posthumously win at the March 14 show, where he’s nominated for best improvised jazz solo for “All Blues” and best jazz instrumental album for “Trilogy 2.”
Musicians and celebrities took to social media to pay tribute to Corea.
John Mayer shared a photo of him and the jazz legend jamming together and wrote a touching message on Instagram noting Corea was the “single greatest improvisational musician I have ever played with.
“Nobody was more open, more finely tuned to the moment, changing his approach with every new offering by the musicians around him. If you hit a wrong note, he’d immediately pick it up and play it as a motif so as to say ‘all of this has value, whether you see it or not’,” Mayer’s caption read.
Musician Sheila E. wrote on Twitter: “I’m devastated to hear of the legendary @ChickCorea’s passing. This man changed my life thru his music and we were able to play together many times. I was very fortunate to call him my family. Chick, you are missed dearly, your music and brilliant light will live on forever.”
Actor Elijah Wood tweeted: “A giant, Chick Corea”
Contributing: Associated Press