|Ten Thousand Motels
||George Melly, jazz legend and zoot suit king, dies
· 80-year-old had lung cancer and dementia
· Musician had just finished last album: Farewell Blues
Friday July 6, 2007
He always said he wanted to die either coming off stage with applause ringing in his ears or by a riverbank with two trout by his side. It didn't happen quite like that for George Melly. And he would probably have been withering about some of the more flamboyant tributes paid to him yesterday.
The jazz world, however, was united in recognising one of the most theatrical and gifted musicians of his generation, who died at his home in London, aged 80. He was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago but had rejected treatment.
Despite also suffering dementia, emphysema and deafness, Melly was back in the studio in March to record a new album, which had the provisional title Farewell Blues. But he never got to hear the finished version after dying at his home with Diana, his wife of 44 years, beside him. She said in a statement: "For 60 years he has been an acclaimed, popular and much-loved performer."
Digby Fairweather, a long-time friend and presenter on radio station theJazz, was asked by Melly to record the final album. He said: "He had dementia and we did it in a great hurry."
Melly, who was born in Liverpool, was well known for his flamboyant dress sense which included florid zoot suits and fedora hats. He was a dedicated founder of the British Jazz Revival and a spokesman for both jazz and blues.
The lord mayor of Liverpool, Paul Clark, said: "George Melly was more than just a jazz legend. His contribution to literature, art and journalism ensured his place as one of Britain's cultural greats of the 20th century."
Melly was performing a month before his death, his last gig a special concert at the 100 Club in London in aid of Admiral Nurses, part of the charity for dementia.
Dame Cleo Laine said: "He will be sadly missed ... for the joy of life and harmless fun he generated in his performances." Jazz composer Sir John Dankworth added: "The rockers also loved his style and Mick Jagger shows the influence of his performing mannerisms in his own style."
Melly made his name in the late 40s and 50s, singing with Mick Mulligan's band. But he gave up the musician's life in 1962 to concentrate on writing about surrealist art and working as a music and theatre critic, writing for The Observer.
He returned to jazz in the 1970s, playing with John Chilton's Feetwarmers, with whom he remained until 2003.
His wit was legendary. He once asked Mick Jagger why his face was so wrinkled. "Laughter lines," the old rocker replied with a grin. Melly quipped: "Nothing's that funny."
Melly refused to accept an honour under New Labour but he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC's 2004 Jazz Awards.
He was a well known figure at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London where he last performed in November. Leo Green, Ronnie Scott's artistic director, said: "No one would have known that he was ill and if he had not deteriorated we would have had him back this November."
Melly was the author of three acclaimed volumes of autobiography in which he wrote about his bisexuality and heavy drinking. The latest volume, published as he approached his 80th birthday, was called Slowing Down.
||This is sad...
||George was a funny old dude, who once managed to render Mick Jagger speechless with a classic put-down.
After Melly commented to him that Jagger's face was showing signs of ageing, Mick dismissed it by saying "they're laughter lines, George.."
To which Melly retorted, "Mick - no joke is THAT funny..."
[Edited by Gazza]