2 minute read

Joe Sample

Suffered From Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The 1980s were a frustrating time for Sample, both personally and creatively. His marriage of over 20 years dissolved, and he suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome. The Crusaders, after losing several key members, broke up after recording the Life in the Modern World album for the GRP label in 1987. The group's once-vital fusion of jazz and funk had fallen victim to music-industry pressures. "The most dangerous thing is to be convinced that you have to follow the rules of formula," Sample told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "and I realize that at certain times in my career (with the Crusaders) I've had to deal with formula or face consequences." Despite the disbanding of the Crusaders, the members would join each other to record periodically over the years; Felder, Hooper, and Sample recorded their first album, called Rural Renewal, as the reunited Crusaders group in 2003 and a live concert in Japan in 2004.

Sample, in fact, emerged as a strong critic of the recording industry in his later years. "We have totally departed from the origins and roots of our music, and that has happened because of businessmen," he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "The reason music is made today is to make multimillion-selling albums. There's less and less music made for just the love of music.... The moguls will sugarcoat everything. It's time to speak out." Sample's musical philosophy had an idealistic tinge. Speaking to Essence about his 1991 Ashes to Ashes release, he said that the album "deals with the disintegration of both Black communities and America at large. What I am witnessing now is a total lack of love and self-respect. So I meant this album to be an inspirational factor in helping the Black community heal itself."

The pianist made a powerful spokesman for these ideas, for by the 1990s and 2000s jazz audiences had begun to refer to him as a legend. "I'm hearing that more and more," Sample told the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's flattering, but I think, gee, I had better play and create in a very special manner." His recordings, for the Warner Brothers, Universal, and Verve, continued to sell well; Sample This was produced in 1997 by jazz fusion giant George Duke, and the All Music Guide hailed the 2002 album The Pecan Tree for its "impressive musical style based upon his early appreciation for jazz, gospel, soul, bebop, blues, Latin, and classical music." Sample's live concerts, often in a trio format featuring percussionist Lenny Castro, could tap rhythmically into the Latin layer of his musical upbringing. His 2004 album Soul Shadows paid tribute to jazz musicians Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton, and pre-jazz bandleader James Reese Europe.

At a Glance...

Born on February 1, 1939, in Houston, TX; married (divorced); children: Nicklas. Education: Attended Texas Southern University.

Career: Musician, 1950s–; Swingsters musical group (renamed Modern Jazz Sextet, Jazz Crusaders (early 1960s), then Crusaders (early 1970s)), co-founder and member, 1960s-1980s.

Addresses: Label—Verve Music Group, 1755 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyJoe Sample Biography - Escaped Realities Of Segregation Through Music, Worked As Session Musician, Suffered From Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Selected discography