The Music's Over

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Died On This Date (April 29, 2009) Marl Young / L.A. Jazz Musician & Activist

Posted by on April 29, 2010

Marl Young
January 29, 1917 – April 29, 2009

marlMarl Young was a pianist and arranger who moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1947 and became instrumental in bringing the white and black music unions together in the early ’50s.  In 1957, Young became the first African American selected to the board of directors of Local 47.  He stayed active on the board until 2008.  In 1962, Desi Arnaz invited Young to play piano as part of the live audience warm-up band for “The Lucy Show.”  Eight years later, he was the show’s music director, becoming the first black music director of a major television show.  Marl Young passed away in a medical rehabilitation center where he was battling prostate cancer.  Exact cause of death has not been released.

One Response to “Died On This Date (April 29, 2009) Marl Young / L.A. Jazz Musician & Activist”

  1. Jackie Blanton said

    Marl Young was a brilliant musician with a lawyer’s mind. He was angry AND kind. His loves were music, politics and his granddaughter Audrey. Just following him around and observing him was an education.
    He had lived through the hard times — the times of playing in grand hotels and then sleeping on a park bench because he was not allowed to stay in that hotel; but his energy was focused, laser-like, on change rather than anger. His work for “Here’s Lucy” was so appropriate because Lucy was the best at her craft and she hired nothing but the best, a stellar 17 piece orchestra of the best musicians in town led, during the “Here’s Lucy” years by the inimitable Marl Young (previously by Wilbur Hatch). His arrangements for Lucy were complex, modern, creative. He would have approached a symphony the same way he approached the incidental music and guest star accompaniment on a sitcom.
    I was lucky enough that one day he came up to me and said, “You know practically nothing about music. But you’re smart, and if you want I will teach you music theory and give you a job.” I was able to study with him, watch him; he even accompanied me (a singer) many times (ridiculously lucky!) and I counted him as a dear friend.
    He never stopped fighting for racial equality, he never was himself anything but scrupulously honest and fair.
    I wish I had had the opportunity to say goodbye. However, if God wants to swing, he’s got a Heavenly orchestra up there and one terrific pianist/arranger. Godspeed, my friend.

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