Today’s Love Goes Out to the ‘Creole Beethoven’

Wardell Quezergue Sr. was a lifelong fixture of the New Orleans music scene.

By Jamilah King Sep 12, 2011

Wardell Quezergue Sr. was a lifelong fixture of the New Orleans music scene. A bandleader, producer, composer, arranger and educator, Quezergue was affectionately known in and around New Orleans as the "Creole Beethoven" for his arrangements and high-profile collaborations.

Before his death last week, Quezergue had teamed up with the likes of B.B. King and Stevie Wonder. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes, he co-wrote "It Ain’t My Fault", a song that’s now become a fixture of the New Orleans brass band scene and has been sampled by several rappers. As a producer and arranger, he had what’s arguably one of the best days in popular music when oversaw the productions for now classic songs "Groove Me" and "Mr. Big Stuff" the span of just a few hours.

The New Orleans native landed his first professional gig at the age of 12 and wrote his first composition, "Harry Jones’ Back Beat Boogie", while he was still in high school. He even performed while he served in the U.S. Army, conducting several Army bands in Tokyo during the Korean War, according to the Times-Picayune.

His accomplishments didn’t go unrecognized. In 2009, the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation held a tribute at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York City, and that same year Loyola University awarded Quezergue an honorary doctorate.

"I hear with my eyes," Quezergue said in 2001, according to the Times-Picayune. "I can look at something, and, before I write another part, I scan it with my eyes. My eyes read, then I hum the other part. That way I can look at one part and write another."

Sadly, Quezergue passed away last week of congestive heart failure. He was 81.

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