Jazz and blues great Mose Allison passed away in his home in Hilton Head, South Carolina, on Tuesday morning November 15 at the age of 89.
A note from his family on his website noted: ‘Sadly Mose Allison passed away this morning, November 15, 2016 at home. His family would like to express their gratitude for all the kind words and thoughts they have received.’
“He was the thread that connected Willie Dixon and Mark Twain,” Joe Henry, the producer who worked with Allison on his 2010 album The Way of the World, told Rolling Stone magazine.
Allison’s songwriting was extremely influential with the British Invasion groups of the ’60s with his songs being recorded by The Who, The Yardbirds, Georgie Fame and Van Morrison’s Them. Morrison, Fame and Ben Sidran released the tribute album, Tell Me Something, with Allison guesting in 1996. John Mayall recorded ‘Parchman Farm’ and still performs it in concert.
Allison was born in Tippo, Mississippi began playing the piano at age five, worked on his grandfather’s farm and also played trumpet. He wrote his first song when he was 13 and later attended the University of Mississippi. He spent two years in the army before going to Louisiana State University where he graduated with an English major in 1952.
After moving to New York City in 1956 he began his professional career playing with Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz and Zoot Sims before releasing his first album, Back Country Suite, in 1957.
Allison became renowned not only for his social commentary – with songs such as ‘Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy’ recorded by Bonnie Raitt – but also his humour (his song ‘Your Mind Is on Vacation (And Your Mouth Is Working Overtime)’ was covered by Elvis Costello).
Many people such as John Hammond Jr initially believe that Allison was African American. Allison’s version of Willie Dixon’s ‘Seventh Son’ became a classic with many people thinking that he wrote it. He once remarked that the biggest impediment to his career was the fact that most people did not realise he was still alive.
Allison was scheduled to tour Australia in 2010 but had to cancel due to ill-health. He retired from live performance in 2012 and was named a jazz master by the National Endowment of the Arts in 2013.
Allison’s final album, Mose Allison American Legend, Live in California, was released in 2015.