“…I put a lot of effort into making it look like it was effortless.”*

*Barry Norman (1933-2017).

Ian Burrell wrote for The Independent of 31 December 2010:

“To generations of British television viewers, Billy Taylor, who has died at the age of 89, will be known as the pianist who composed the theme to the BBC’s film review show hosted by Barry Norman and then Jonathan Ross. But the American was also a prominent civil rights campaigner and a bona fide titan of jazz, who played alongside the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

His most famous piece, “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free”, was adopted as an unofficial anthem for the US civil rights movement and was recorded by Nina Simone for her 1967 album Silk and Soul. The BBC’s Film show, which began as a national programme in 1972, also adopted the tune and made the instrumental version into an instantly recognisable classic in Britain. Taylor also led the house band on The David Frost Show in America between 1969 and 1972. He was himself an accomplished broadcaster and a passionate ambassador for jazz. He was given an Emmy for his television work for the CBS network.

Unlike many of his jazz contemporaries, he had formal training, graduating from Virginia State College with a degree in music and later earning a masters and PhD from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

But as the house pianist of Charlie Parker’s New York club Birdland, he also had a fine jazz pedigree. He was a protégé of the pianist Art Tatum and had the opportunity to play alongside such performers as Billie Holiday and Miles Davis.

Through academia and the media he promoted jazz, becoming the Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University and acquiring 17 honorary degrees.”

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