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GEORGE SHEARING enjoys an international reputation as a pianist, arranger, and composer. Equally at home on the concert stage as in jazz clubs, Shearing is recognized for inventive, orchestrated jazz. He has written more than 300 compositions, including the classic "Lullaby of Birdland," which has become a jazz standard.
Shearing was born in 1919 in the Battersea area of London. Congenitally blind, he was the youngest of nine children. His only formal musical education consisted of four years of study at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind. While his talent won him a number of university scholarships, he was forced to refuse them in favor of a more financially productive pursuit: playing piano in a neighborhood pub for the handsome salary of five dollars a week! Shearing joined an all-blind band in the 1930s. At that time, he developed a friendship with noted jazz critic and author Leonard Feather. Through this contact, he made his first appearance on BBC radio.
In 1947, Shearing moved to America, where he spent two years establishing his fame on this side of the Atlantic. The Shearing sound commanded national attention when, in 1949, he gathered a quintet to record September in the Rain for MGM. The record was an overnight success and sold 900,000 copies. His United States reputation was permanently established when he was booked into Birdland, the legendary jazz spot in New York City. In 1982 and 1983, he won Grammy Awards with recordings he made with Mel Tormé. Shearing was the subject of an hour-long television documentary entitled The Shearing Touch presented on The Southbank Show with Melvyn Bragg on ITV in the UK, which can be seen now in the United States on the Bravo channel.
He has received the prestigious Horatio Alger Award for Distinguished Americans in 1978, and a community recreational facility in Battersea, south London, was named the George Shearing Centre in his honor. In May 1993, he was presented with the British equivalent of the Grammy - the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement. In June 1996, Shearing was included in the Queen's Birthday Honors List, and on November 26 he was invested by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his "service to music and Anglo-U.S. relations.”