Jimmy Smith (December 8, 1925 or 1928 - February 8, 2005) was a pioneering and influential jazz organist who became famous beginning in the late 1950s. A virtuoso on the Hammond B-3 organ with his roots in hard bop, he helped to popularize the use of this instrument in pop, rock, blues, R&B, funk, and soul music, especially during the 1960s and 1970s. Smith's long string of hits included "Walk On The Wild Side Part 1" (1962), a funky, gospel-infused jazz instrumental not to be confused with the same-named 1973 hit by Lou Reed.
Jimmy Smith made his debut in 1962 on both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts with an instrumental version of "Midnight Special, Part 1." He scored his greatest hit later that year with his rendition of the Mack David/Elmer Bernstein-penned "Walk On The Wild Side Part 1," the title song from the movie starring Jane Fonda and Laurence Harvey. This song was also a part of the soundtrack to "Casino" (1995) and other films. Smith's long string of all-instrumental hits also included "Ol' Man River" (1962), "Back At The Chicken Shack, Part 1" (1963), "Hobo Flats - Part I" (1963), "The Cat" (1964), "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (Part I)" (1964), "The Organ Grinder's Swing" (1965), "Got My Mojo Working (Part I)" (1966), and "I'm Your Hoochie Cooche Man (Part 1)" (1966). He also had minor hits with his instrumental covers of such oldies classics as "What'd I Say" (1963), "Goldfinger (Part I)" (1965), "Respect" (1967), and "Chain Of Fools (Part 1)" (1968).
In 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Jimmy Smith with the prestigious Jazz Masters Fellowship Award, the nation's highest honor for jazz musicians. Over the years, he influenced countless jazz organists as well as such top rock keyboardists as Brian Auger, Keith Emerson, and Jon Lord. A prolific recording artist, Smith recorded over thirty albums between 1956-1962 for Blue Note that included such classics as "The Sermon!" (1959), "Midnight Special" (1961), and "Back At The Chicken Shack" (1963), and he released numerous others over his long career. "Root Down" (1972), a live jazz album that features the song, "Root Down (And Get It)," was later sampled by the Beastie Boys. His final album, "Legacy" (2005), was released shortly after his passing.
- The Washington Post remembers jazz great Jimmy Smith.
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Jimmy Smith And The Big Band
- Walk On The Wild Side Part 1 1962
(This instrumental song also became a hit for Brook Benton (1962).)
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