NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) Henry Butler, 68, R&B and jazz pianist known for his New Orleans roots, died of end-stage cancer in New York City July 2 according to manager Art Edelstein and agent Maurice Montoya.
“He really fought hard,” Edelstein told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “He’s really been active, but his body just gave out.”
Butler’s last performance is believed to be June 18 in New York. He had toured with bands in China and Australia in May and played this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Butler was raised in New Orleans. Blind since birth, he learned to play the piano by ear and was playing professional by 12. At the Louisiana State School for the Blind, he learned to memorize classical music written in Braille. He was also a photographer, taking photos as they were described to him by friends.
Butler played NOLA venues and festivals for decades and toured worldwide. Hurricane Katrina flooded his home in 2005, destroying his piano and music collection, forcing him to move first to Colorado then New York, according to the Times-Picayune. In 2009, he was Mendocino College’s “Artist In Residence.” He has been based in Brooklyn for the past five years.
Edelstein and Montoya compared Butler with Crescent City icons James Booker and Professor Longhair.
“They all incorporated so much of New Orleans history,” Edelstein told the paper. “Henry really is the last of that tradition.”