Pianist George Winston Passes After Lengthy Cancer Battle

George Winston passes after lengthy battle with cancer
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George Winston passes after lengthy battle with cancer
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Photo Credit: George Winston

Pianist George Winston has passed away after a lengthy 10-year battle with cancer.

Pianist George Winston, a musician whose recordings crowned him one of the first stars of New Age music, has passed away after a 10-year battle with cancer. His family announced that he “quietly and painlessly left this world while asleep” on Sunday, June 4, 2023. He was 73.

“George courageously managed serious cancers, including having a successful bone marrow transplant for Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) in 2013 at City of Hope, in Duarte, California, that gratefully extended his life by ten years,” writes his family on his website.

“Throughout his cancer treatments, George continued to write and record new music, and he stayed true to his greatest passion: performing for live audiences while raising funds for Feeding America to help fight the national hunger crisis, along with donating proceeds from each of his concerts to local food banks.”

Across a career spanning more than 50 years, George first became known for his two iconic albums, Autumn (1980) and December (1982). His distinctive, highly-imitated flavor of warm, pastoral solo piano primarily built his reputation as a New Age artist, though Winston never used the term to describe his music.

“I have always called it ‘Folk Piano’ (or more accurately ‘Rural Folk Piano’),” George wrote on his website. “Since it is melodic and not complicated in its approach, like folk guitar picking and folk songs, and has a rural sensibility.”

Still, Winston always claimed his true passion was for R&B, inspired by New Orleans’ piano sound and the Harlem stride tradition. Despite the foundations of classical music apparent in his playing, Winston had no training nor interest in classical music.

Drawn to the sounds of the organ after hearing The Doors in 1967, Winston’s investigation of Doors organist Ray Manzarek led him to jazz musician Jimmy Smith, who inspired Winston to switch to piano in 1971 in the fashion of stride pianist Fats Waller.

With 16 solo piano albums under his belt, George Winston recorded tributes for Vince Guaraldi, The Doors, a Hurricane Katrina relief benefit, Gulf Coast and Louisiana Wetlands benefits, a September 11 benefit, a cancer research benefit for City of Hope, and many others.

The legacy of George Winston includes his well-loved catalog and an archive of his acoustic guitar and harmonica recordings, in addition to albums by an array of Hawaiian slack key artists on his record label, Dancing Cat Records.