15 Feb 2011

Death of jazz pianist

8:24 am on 15 February 2011

Jazz pianist Sir George Shearing, best known for his song Lullaby of Birdland, has died in New York.

Blind from birth, he began his career in London before moving to the United States in 1947 and became one of the best known jazz pianists of the post-war era.

Made an OBE in 1996 and knighted in 2007, he was renowned for his unusual "locked hands" style of playing.

Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee were among the music stars he worked with.

Sir George, 91, played for three US presidents as well as the Queen and led his own quintet for decades.

In 2003, he received a lifetime achievement honour at the BBC Jazz awards.

At the time of his knighthood, Sir George spoke fondly of his early years "playing in a pub for the equivalent of $5 a week".

The BBC reports he was still performing into his 80s, but had a serious fall in 2004 that led to months in hospital and nursing home care. He died of heart failure.