JON HENDRICKS is one of the world’s favorite jazz vocalists, considered to be the “Poet Laureate of Jazz” and dubbed by Time magazine as the “James Joyce of Jive.” He has written lyrics to a number of jazz standards, including “Four,” “Hi Fly,” “Along Came Betty,” “Desafinado,” and “No More Blues.” More recently he was one of three singers in Wynton Marsalis’ Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio Blood on the Fields.
Born in 1921 in Newark, Ohio, Hendricks and his family followed his father’s assignments as a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal church. When Hendricks was 14 the family settled permanently in Toledo, where he soon was singing regularly on the radio with another Toledo native, pianist Art Tatum.
In 1957 Hendricks teamed with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross to form the vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. Hendricks has toured Europe and Africa and recorded numerous critically acclaimed albums. His collaboration with the Manhattan Transfer for their 1985 album Vocalese won seven Grammy awards. His television documentary, Somewhere to Lay My Weary Head, received Emmy, Iris, and Peabody awards, and he has served on the Kennedy Center Honors committee under Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.
Hendricks has served as the jazz critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and taught at California State University, Sonoma, the University of California, Berkeley, and at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 2000 he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Jazz Studies and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Toledo.
The Jon Hendricks Vocalstra at the University of Toledo performs his jazz arrangements and, more recently, Hendricks’s lyricizations and arrangements of classical works, including Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto.
In 2004 Hendricks was awarded the French Legion of Honor on the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy, in which Hendricks took part. Earlier this year he performed in the PBS Great Performances special “Legends of Jazz.”