Eddie Heywood

Eddie Heywood
Music: West side of the 1700 block of Vine Street
Composer | Jazz Musician
Born Dec. 4, 1915 in Atlanta, Ga.
Died Jan. 3, 1989 in Miami, FL

Eddie Heywood Jr., a popular jazz pianist of the 1940s, is probably best known for composing "Canadian Sunset."

Named as a new star by Esquire magazine in 1945, Heywood recorded albums with his own sextet and with vocalists Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald until a partial paralysis of his hands forced him to cut short his performing career in 1947.

Born in 1915, he was the son of a pianist and well-known combo leader. He began studying the piano in 1923 and made his professional debut in 1930 with an Atlanta vaudeville theater band.

Heywood moved to New York City in 1938 and began playing in Harlem nightclubs. He first began to attract attention with Benny Carter's band in 1939. When the band broke up in 1940, he began playing at the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village and formed his own sextet in 1943 that included trumpeter Doc Cheatham and trombonist Vic Dickenson.

In the next four years, Heywood and his sextet achieved nationwide popularity and were heard on radio and records with Bing Crosby and appeared in two films, "The Dark Corner" and "The Junior Prom."

The sextet's version of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" was arranged in a crisp, stylized manner that appealed equally to followers of jazz and pop music.

But at the peak of his career in the late '40s, Heywood's hands became paralyzed and he was forced to stop performing.

Heywood turned to composing, writing three hits in the 1950s, "Land of Dreams," "Soft Summer Breeze" and "Canadian Sunset," his biggest success.

As a pianist, Heywood played with a straight-ahead swing-era style, but as a composer his tunes often were constructed around nature themes.

After 1956, he settled in Martha's Vineyard, where he continued composing, writing more than 40 songs. He attempted to return to performing in the late '60s, but was once again hampered by his paralysis.

"He was an artist who had a chance to become world famous," said Times jazz critic Leonard Feather. "(The paralysis) was a setback from which he never returned."

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