Born to Immigrants from West Indies in August 15, 1925, in Quebec Canada, Oscar Peterson grew up to be a great Pianist and made a name for himself in the world of music. As a fourth born in a family where their father insisted on every child learning how to play a musical instrument, Oscar put his love on the trumpet but due to bouts of tuberculosis, he was forced to move to the piano. He learned the piano under the coaching of his father and sister but as his talent grew, he was more than just a home tutelage student and needed advanced teaching.
A teacher had to be found, and this was Paul deMarky, a talented Hungarian classical pianist. With the skills of his teacher and the talent boiling within him, there developed a tight relationship between the two, which was the foundation below the success of one of the most prolific stars in the world of jazz. Oscar had incomparable prowess with the piano and though there were critics for not having his own style, the fact that he was musically influence by the likes of Count Basie, Nat King Cole and Art Tatum, allowed him play easy to follow yet exquisite performances all through his career.
The 1950s were the greatest years in the career of Oscar Peterson because this is the period when he received worldwide recognition and was one time referred to as the “Maharaja” of jazz by Duke Ellington. Through his success, Oscar played in quite a number of settings: big hands, small hands, solos, duos, trios, and quartets. Due to the emergence of stars doing solo performances Oscar recorded solo piano sessions at MPS label and titled the albums “Exclusive for my friends”. Oscar played with Herbie Hancock, another established and successful pianist in the 1980s, and later in the 80s and early 90s, he recorded and performed alongside Benny Green, his protégé.
Through out his career running for more than 5 decades, Oscar Peterson managed to scoop 8 Grammys. His name still remains in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame and the Juno Awards Hall of Fame. In 1986, Oscar received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Award, in 1987; he received the Roy Thomson Award, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, among many other awards all through his performance career. In Oscar Peterson’s honor, the Concordia University, Montreal, renamed their concert hall in 1999 to “Oscar Peterson Concert Hall”.
Oscar was a recognized pianist locally in Canada and internationally. The awards he received and the recognition shows that he was a respectable and popular public figure at home. With the ability to play different instruments exceptionally, he bagged 8 Grammys, 16 honorary degrees and numerous awards.
As a young man, Peterson had arthritis and in his later years his mobility was hindered by this condition. In 1993, Peterson had a serious stroke that took him off the industry for two years, but after recuperation, he came back and continued playing. In 2007, his health deteriorated rapidly, which forced him to cancel a major performance at the Toronto Jazz Festival. December 23, 2007, Oscar Peterson rested in peace in Mississauga, Ontario as a result of Kidney failure.