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Grolnick, Don (23rd September 1948-1st June 1996)

He was a pianist, songwriter, music director and producer born in Brooklyn, New York who grew up in Levittown, New York.

Interested in music from a young age when his father had taken him to see acts such as the Count Basie Orchestra and Errol Garner, he began by concentrating on the accordion, but would later gravitate towards the piano.  He studied philosophy at Tufts University where he met up with Michael Brecker and after returning to New York in 1969 he became a member of the group Dreams, followed by The Brecker Brothers in 1975.

Soon he was sought after as a session and touring musician and also he began a long association with James Taylor in 1974, which would last for 22 years with him acting as a co-writer, music director and producer.  In 1980s he became a member of the New York jazz group Steps Ahead.

Over the course of his career, acts he worked with include Ashford & Simpson, Gato Barbieri, Stephen Bishop, James Brown, Irene Cara, Harry Chapin, Dawn, Steve Gadd, Gloria Gaynor, Chaka Khan, Cleo Laine, Melissa Manchester, Chuck Mangione, Bette Midler, Nelson Riddle, Aaron Neville, Tony Orlando, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, David Sanborn, Jon Secada, Paul Simon, Sting, 10,000 Maniacs, B.J. Thomas and Luther Vandross to name just a select few.

Albums he can be heard on are many, but a selection of them includes his own Hearts and Numbers, Weaver of Dreams, Nighttown and Medianoche and also This is Jazz, Vol. 9 by George Benson, Albriendo Puertas by Gloria Estefan, Blue Lights in the Basement by Roberta Flack, Up ‘Til Now by Art Garfunkel, Whirlwind by Andrew Gold, Seduction by James Last, Barry Manilow II by Barry Manilow, House of the Rising Sun by Idris Muhammed, Living in the U.S.A. by Linda Ronstadt, In My Stride by David Ruffin, Hits by Bozz Scaggs, Spy by Carly Simon, One Trick Pony by Paul Simon, Border Torn: The Very Best Of… by J.D. Souther, Ringo the 4th by Ringo Starr, Aja by Steely Dan and JT/Flag/Dad Loves His Work by James Taylor.

He sadly died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1996 aged just 48 and his father and uncle set up a memorial scholarship at the University of North Texas in commemoration.  His wife was the jazz singer Jeanne O’Connor.

Linda Ronstadt recordings
Back in the U.S.A. (Chuck Berry)

Here he is performing piano on “The Four Sleepers”…