Legendary Jazz lyricist and singer Jon Hendricks recently celebrated his 95th birthday at the Iridium Jazz Club in midtown with his daughters Aria and Michelle on stage and a few hundred fans in the audience.
Jon is considered one of the originators of vocalese, which adds lyrics to existing instrumental songs and replaces many instruments with vocalists.
He is also praised as one of the best practitioners of scat singing.
For his work as a lyricist, jazz critic and historian Leonard Feather called him the “Poet Laureate of Jazz”, while Time Magazine dubbed him the “James Joyce of Jive”.
Jon Hendricks was born in Ohio on September 16, 1921, one of 15 children and began his singing career at the age of 10.
He has said: “By the time I was 10, I was a local celebrity in Toledo. I had offers to go with Fats Waller when I was 12, and offers to go with Ted Lewis and be his shadow when I was 13. He had that song ‘Me and My Shadow’. And he had this little Negro boy who was his shadow, that did everything he did. That was his act.”
In 1957, he teamed with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross to form the legendary vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (LH&R). With Jon as lyricist, the trio perfected the art of vocalese, earning them the designation of the “Number One Vocal Group in the World” for five years in a row from Melody Maker magazine. After six years the trio disbanded for solo careers but not before leaving behind a catalog of legendary recordings, most of which have never gone out of print.
Hendricks recorded several critically acclaimed albums on his own, some with his wife Judith and daughters Michele and Aria contributing.
He has served on the Kennedy Center Honors committee under Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Clinton. Mr. Hendricks has also received two Grammys, a Peabody and the Legion d’Honneur from France for being a D Day veteran.
In 2000 Jon Hendricks returned to his home town of Newark, Ohio to teach at the University of Toledo, where he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Jazz Studies and received an honorary Doctorate of the Performing Arts.
Jon has lived in Battery Park City for over 20 years.