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Oscar Peterson 15 August 1925 – 23 December 2007 Jazz Pianist / Canadian / Rights Activist.

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Presentation on theme: "Oscar Peterson 15 August 1925 – 23 December 2007 Jazz Pianist / Canadian / Rights Activist."— Presentation transcript:

1 Oscar Peterson 15 August 1925 – 23 December 2007 Jazz Pianist / Canadian / Rights Activist

2 Oscar Peterson Peterson was one of the world’s greatest jazz pianists. His awards include Seven Grammy awards Roy Thomson Award (1987) Toronto Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement (1991) Governor General's Performing Arts Award (1992) Glenn Gould Prize (1993) Award of the International Society for Performing Artists (1995) Loyola Medal of Concordia University (1997) Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1997) Praemium Imperiale World Art Award (1999) UNESCO International Music Prize (2000)…the first Canadian recipient of this award Toronto Musicians' Association Musician of the Year award (2001).

3 Oscar Peterson For his contributions to music, Peterson was elected to Canadian Music Hall of Fame Juno Awards Hall of Fame American Jazz Hall of Fame Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972, and promoted to Companion, its highest rank, in He was also a member of the Order of Ontario, a Chevalier of the National Order of Quebec and an Officer of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Canada made a stamp in his honour.

4 Oscar Peterson In 1999, Concordia University in Montreal renamed their Loyola-campus concert hall Oscar Peterson Concert Hall. From 1991 to 1994 he was Chancellor of York University. He has received honourary doctorates from many universities including Carleton University Queen's University Concordia University McMaster University Mount Allison University University of Victoria University of Western Ontario York University University of Toronto Université Laval Northwestern University

5 Oscar Peterson The Oscar Peterson story is not entirely bright or rosy. It has a dark and sad side. In learning about his life, you should visualize your image(s) of Canada. Where does Peterson fit into your ideal? Does the Peterson story impact or change your picture of Canadian society? Read on…

6 Oscar Peterson Peterson was born in Montreal, the son of a passenger train porter. His sister taught him to play. NOTE: She is now a world renowned piano teacher Peterson dropped out of high school to pursue a career in music. When he told his father of his decision, his father said he would allow it as long as Oscar promised to become the best. At age 15, Peterson won first prize in a CBC radio talent show

7 Oscar Peterson At age 19, the “six-foot- three, 220 pound coloured boy with amazing fingers" is invited to perform on The Merchant Navy Show. Peterson amazed the crowd with his performace of "Boogie Woogie Cocktail" by Ken Kersey. Peterson later said that being called "boy" during the interview was not patronizing but insulting.

8 Oscar Peterson Peterson becomes known for his fast boogie woogie style of playing. His technique earns him the nickname "The Brown Bomber of Boogie Woogie." On CBC Radio's 940 on the Dial, Peterson describes his playing as "swing with a walking boogie style." It involves playing syncopated octaves in the left hand while composing a melody in the right hand, completely independent of one another. Peterson credits his classical training as instrumental in developing his unique technique.

9 Oscar Peterson During his early career, he was shut out by a white-dominated musical and cultural establishment that controlled access to key venues in Canada…particularly the CBC. From 1943 to 1947, Oscar Peterson was the featured soloist with the Johnny Holmes Orchestra, a popular…and until then…all- white Montreal dance band. Since Peterson is the only black musician in the group, he becomes an easy target for racists. One such encounter takes place at Montreal's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The orchestra was booked in advance to play, but at the last minute, the hotel objects to its "coloured pianist" stating "…that nigger is not coming into this hotel." When Holmes threatens to take out ads condemning the Ritz-Carlton for its racist policies, the hotel relents and the show goes on highlighting Peterson.

10 Oscar Peterson In 1944, he composed Hymn to Freedom. It was his protest against segregation and racism that he witnessed in the United States. The racism he was subjected to in the USA was so direct, frequent, threatening and rampant that Peterson used to carry a chain under his car seat when he toured in the States.

11 Oscar Peterson In 1951, Mr. Peterson was caught up in a racial dispute when a Hamilton barber refused to cut Peterson’s hair because he was black. Although he pursued the complaint against the barber because he was offended by the man's prejudiced attitude, Peterson later spoke on the barber's behalf when Hamilton city officials moved to revoke his business licence. Peterson was never a nasty guy, and he believed that his point had been made. He was angry about what had happened, but he did not want to destroy the man. Peterson said, “This is Canada. Here, the law is on my side.”

12 Oscar Peterson In 1953, Herb Ellis joined the Oscar Peterson Trio. Peterson received hate letters from black musicians and fans condemning him for playing with a white guitarist. Peterson dismisses the comments saying he has no time for what he calls "stupid racism." Peterson says, “Talent comes in a variety of packages — black, white, brown, yellow, tall, short, fat, thin, monster-like or gentle." Herb Ellis made a point of staying at the "black hotels” with Peterson and Ray Brown whenever the trio was on the road. Ellis said it was not about making a statement but simply a matter of staying with his friends.

13 Oscar Peterson Peterson earned the nickname "Maharajah of the keyboard," a title bestowed on him by Duke Ellington. He has also been called the Wayne Gretzky of the piano. Yet in Canada, he was often mistaken for a football player. Moreover, he was not widely accepted and his music was largely ignored in Canada. In the world, he was cheered, but in Canada, he felt snubbed.

14 Oscar Peterson In the early 1970s, he chose Mississauga for his home after being snubbed by a landlord in Toronto's wealthy Forest Hill neighbourhood who refused to rent to him because he was black. In the early 1970s, he lobbied to have more minorities on television shows and advertisements, in the belief that white-dominated media marginalized other cultures. He thought that kids got their view of the world from what they saw on television…it seems he was way ahead of his time.

15 Oscar Peterson Peterson was married four times. His first wife was black. The others were white. Many believed Peterson had rejected mixed marriage since he had told his biographer that unions between blacks and whites demanded "incredible intellectual unselfishness." When asked about his apparent about-face, Peterson explained, "I did not say I was against it. I just said it was hard."

16 Oscar Peterson In 2006 in Mississauga, he was taunted by a group of men who yelled, “Dash- dash-dash-dash you Oscar Peterson. Fill it in for yourself. First word starts with F.” It reminded Peterson of the racial taunts of the 1950s USA south. He considered leaving Canada and moving to the West Indies. He said, “No matter where I traveled, I always said I was pleased and proud to be from Canada. This is very hard for me to understand. It hurt me deeply."

17 Oscar Peterson Oscar Peterson led an amazing life. He will likely be remembered as Canada’s greatest jazz pianist. Peterson was also a great statesman for Canada. He projected our values of fairness, compassion and equality. Yet, Peterson often and repeatedly experienced racism in Canada and abroad…especially during the turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement. What do you feel about Canada…in the 1950s and now…after learning the Oscar Peterson story and his treatment by Canadians? Would you call Oscar Peterson a great Canadian? Explain your answer.


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