Crusaders saxophonist Wilton Felder dies

Saxophonist Wilton Felder, founder member of The Crusaders, has died at home aged 75. He was suffering from cancer.

Saxophonist Wilton Felder, founder member of The Crusaders, has died at home aged 75. He was suffering from cancer.

Felder’s first love was playing live with The Crusaders, best known for their soulful 1979 hit ‘Street Life’ with Randy Crawford. He was a much in-demand session player who also played bass and is heard on records by Michael Jackson, Michael Franks, Joni Mitchell, Archie Shepp, Blue Mitchell, Hugh Masekela, Shuggie Otis, B.B. King, Steely Dan, Nancy Wilson, Barry White and many more.

He was in-house bassist for Motown and played bass on the Jackson 5’s hit ‘I Want You Back,’ and Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On.’

Felder was born in Houston, Texas, getting together with schoolmates Joe Sample on piano, Wayne Henderson on trombone and “Stix” Hooper on drums to form the Swingsters in the 1950s. After some efforts to make it in Los Angeles, and also Las Vegas under the name the Night Hawks, they eventually returned to Los Angeles to secure a record deal as The Jazz Crusaders. The Jazz part of the name was later dropped to avoid being pigeon-holed and their album ‘Street Life’ was a huge commercial success. Wilton Felder is also known for his classic song ‘Inherit The Wind’ with soul singer Bobby Womack, the title cut of his 1980 album.

In the 1990s the Crusaders broke up leaving Felder to reluctantly play with other groups, but they reformed in 2003 and three of the original four recorded a reunion album. Trombone player Wayne Henderson and pianist Joe Sample both died in 2014, now leaving “Stix” Hooper as the only surviving original Crusader.

You can hear a full music tribute to Wilton Felder with Peter Young on Jazz FM Saturday Oct 3 from 2pm.

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