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Toots Thielemans (1922 - 2016)

Getty Images / Redferns / Photo by Dimitri Hakke

Toots Thielemans (1922 - 2016)

Toots Thielemans, a legendary jazz harmonica player, died Aug. 22, 2016, according to multiple news sources. He was 94.

The Belgian jazz musician died his sleep at a hospital in Brussels, said his manager, Veerle Van de Poel.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted: “We have lost a great musician, a heartwarming personality. All my thoughts are with the family and friends of Toots Thielemans.”


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He was born Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor in Brussels, Belgium. He started out as a guitar player. In 1949, he toured Europe with Benny Goodman as a guitarist.

He moved to the United States in 1952, where he joined Charlie Parker’s All-Stars, and he also worked with Miles Davis and Dinah Washington. He has played with many other jazz greats including Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson.

Thielemans composed and recorded his signature song in 1962. “Bluesette,” which was an international hit, has become a jazz standard. He worked on movie soundtracks including “Midnight Cowboy,” and his harmonica is heard on the theme music for the children’s show “Sesame Street.”

He also worked on many projects with the legendary record producer Quincy Jones. Jones was quoted as saying on Thielemans’ website: “I can say without hesitation that Toots is one of the greatest musicians of our time.”

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