George Franklin Benson Jr.
Detroit - George Franklin Benson Jr., Detroit's jazz saxophone legend, passed away on March 9, 2019 at the age of 90. George has a stellar reputation as a masterful alto and tenor saxophonist, as well as music educator. He has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the Old Time Jazz Festival in Breda, Holland. His CD "George Benson Sax Master" earned the 2000 Detroit Music Award for Outstanding Jazz - Traditional, Instrumentalist and Recording. In 2001, this CD was placed in the city of Detroit's time capsule, which is to be opened in 2101. He has performed and recorded with such artists as Marvin Gaye ("What's Going On,") Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Nancy Wilson, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr., and many others. George has shared his musical expertise with students at Wayne State University, Schoolcraft College, Cranbrook, as well as giving private lessons. He served as a corporal in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Oahu, Hawaii playing in the Army band. He wrote an Army march for which he received an award. He was featured on the TV show PM Magazine in a segment titled, "The Postman Swings Twice" showing how he successfully managed his post office job during the day, and his musical gigs at night. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 1994. George was always a devoted family man, choosing his family over fame and fortune by deciding not to move to New York. He was married to his wife LaJune for 63 ½ years; she passed away in 2015. George adored his granddaughter, Kaylani, who he called "papa's girl." George's health started declining late in 2018 and he spent most of 2019 in the hospital. He was blessed to celebrate his 90th birthday in February 2019. He leaves his children Michael and Kimberly, granddaughter Kaylani, brother Ronald, and a host of nieces, nephews, fellow musicians and fans to cherish his wonderful life and musical legacy. His music will live on for generations.
Visitation will be held Friday, March 15, from 9am - 9pm at James H. Cole Home for Funerals - NW Chapel, 16100 Schaefer Detroit 48235. The funeral service will be at Rock of Ages Church, 16501 Evergreen Detroit 48219, Saturday, March 16 at 11:00am. The family hour will begin at 9:00am, and a musical tribute will be held from 10:00am - 11:00am.
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Published by The Detroit News & Detroit Free Press from Mar. 13 to Mar. 14, 2019.