Toots Thielemans dies

Belgium's best known and globally celebrated jazz musician, harmonica player 'Toots' Thielemans has died in Brussels aged 94.

Belgian jazz harmonica player Toots Thielemans has died in Brussels aged 94.

One of the first tributes has been from Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel who tweeted, “We have lost a great musician, a heart-warming personality. All my thoughts are with the family and friends of Toots Thielemans.”

Thielemans was born in Brussels in April 1922. He toured with band leader Benny Goodman through Europe in 1950, which brought him to the attention of jazz audiences. He made his reputation working with Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Edith Piaf, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones and more. Quincy, who is in the UK taking part in The Proms, is an ardent admirer of Toots describing him as, “one of the greatest jazz men.” 

Born Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidore Thielemans, he can be heard playing harmonica on the soundtrack of ‘Midnight Cowboy’ and several other films. He was also famous for playing his harmonica on kids TV show ’Sesame Street.’ As well as mastering a slighly larger chromatic harmonica he was an accomplished guitarist and jazz whistler. In 2014 Toots retired from a career that spanned more than seven decades over health issues.

Belgium’s King Albert II made Theilemans a baron in 2001 and has joined the tributes.

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