David “Fathead” Newman performing at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, March 2003. (Photo by Mark Sheldon)
Just found out one of jazz music’s most notable saxophonists has died.
David “Fathead” Newman, who played with Ray Charles starting in 1954 and went on to a successful solo career, died last week on January 20th of pancreatic cancer.
He was 74 years old.
Newman got the nickname “fathead” in high school music class. His music teacher observed his music upside down on the stand, and knowing that Newman couldn’t read music very well at the time, walked over and tapped him on his head with the conductor’s baton and called him, “Fathead.” The entire classroom laughed, and Newman, having good humor, didn’t find it derogatory. The name stuck with him ever since. However, he had preferred to be called, “David”.
Newman was best known for his hard bop style that has influenced whole generations of saxophone players of different genres.
In addition to playing with Ray Charles, he also played with Stanley Turrentine, Aretha Franklin, B. B. King, the Average White Band, Jimmy McGriff, Eric Clapton, John Stein, Natalie Cole, Hank Crawford, Aaron Neville, Queen Latifah, Richard Tee, Dr. John, Cheryl Bentyne of The Manhattan Transfer and country/tex-mex artist Doug Sahm.