Grover Washington, Jr.’s hit albums included Mister Magic in 1974 and Winelight in 1981; the latter won him two Grammy Awards in '82. A larger-than-life mural on the corner of Broad and Diamond streets pays tribute to the famed saxophonist who, for over three decades, called Philadelphia his home. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more.
WRTI Presents: Grover Washington, Jr. Reunion Concert featuring Najee, Gerald Albright, and Jean Carn, and original members of Grover's band on Tuesday, July 18 at 7:30 pm, Temple Performing Arts Center (TPAC). Tickets: $30, general admission
[MUSIC: Grover Washington, Jr., "Mister Magic"]
Susan Lewis: His image rises three stories; his patchwork tunic is vivid with lavender, blue, and red. Forehead glistening, eyes closed in concentration, Grover Washington Jr. is one with his gleaming saxophone, fingers on the keys, lips around the mouthpiece, as he breathes life into the music.
Jane Golden: If you look at it and shut your eyes, you can almost hear the music.
SL: Jane Golden, executive director of the City’s Mural Arts Program, worked with artist Peter Pagast, who painted the mural after immersing himself in photographs, sounds, and stories of the man who wrote, arranged, produced and performed—playing soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone sax.
JG: He seemed, to us, like a person who lived and breathed music; someone who woke in the morning and went to sleep hearing music in his head.
SL: Born in 1943 in Buffalo, NY, Grover Washington lived in Philadelphia from 1967—playing, collaborating, innovating —until his death in '99 from a massive heart attack. Two years later, the mural was created near Temple University.
[MUSIC: Grover Washington, Jr., "Winelight"]
JG: He lives on in that mural. He lives on in our hearts. He lives on in our music. A test of that is when the mural started to fade, the number of citizens who called to complain, because they feel a sense of ownership about the work.
SL: Restored in 2015, the mural continues to celebrate his legacy—just look, and listen.
Continuing the humanitarian legacy of Grover Washington, Jr:
While Grover Washington was known the world over as a virtuoso musician, composer, producer and for his great personal warmth, perhaps what separated him from most "stars" was his ability to remain grounded. He also left behind a remarkable humanitarian legacy as a public servant who was always willing to lend his name and talent to help others. Whether it was performing the national anthem at the Special Olympics, teaching master classes at the Settlement Music School, or playing a benefit concert for the Oklahoma City bombing victims, Grover Washington, Jr. was always there making a difference.
His family and friends were determined to continue that legacy and to make a difference in the community that he loved—Philadelphia. In his memory, the Grover Washington, Jr. Protect the Dream Foundation Fund was established at The Philadelphia Foundation, committed to developing the gifts and skills of young people across the nation and to protecting Grover's "dream" well into the 21st Century. The Foundation fosters and enriches the musical interests and skills of young people by supporting public and nonprofit institutions devoted to music education.
So far, this fund has distributed grants to organizations including Grover Washington, Jr. Middle School in Philadelphia, college music scholarships, Limelight Arts Center, Musicopia, Allen’s Lane Art Center, the Jazz Bridge Project, Abington Friends School, and Settlement Music School.
If you want to be a part of perpetuating Grover Washington’s legacy, you can give safely online through The Philadelphia Foundation website: http://www.philafound.org/GroverWashingtonJrProtectTheDreamFoundationFund, Or, mail a check made out to The Philadelphia Foundation, with The Grover Washington Jr. Protect the Dream Foundation Fund in the memo line to: The Philadelphia Foundation, P.O. Box 826728, Philadelphia PA 19182-6728.