In Memoriam: Henry Butler

Published on: July 2nd, 2018

Henry Butler [Photo by Leon Morris]

Henry Butler [Photo by Leon Morris]

New Orleans piano genius Henry Butler has passed away at the age of 68.

Blinded by glaucoma at birth, Butler began playing the piano at age six, and professionally arranged, composed, and performed since age 12. One of the premier torchbearers of the New Orleans jazz and blues piano tradition, Butler played for audiences across the world for decades.

Butler’s sound was a rich blend of jazz, Caribbean, classical, pop, blues, and R&B. He took influences from many sources, including his own past growing up in the Calliope Projects in New Orleans. He played and learned with the great Alvin Batiste, Sir Roland Hanna, Professor Longhair, and James Booker, among others. He studied at the Louisiana School for the Blind, Southern University, Baton Rouge, and Michigan State University. As his prowess grew, his tours took him abroad where he was influenced by other regions of the world, including Brazil, France, Norway, Italy, Japan, and Australia.

Throughout his tours, he remained a presence in the clubs and festivals in and around New Orleans. He performed much-anticipated sets at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest over three dozen times, both solo and as part of a group, with his first appearance being in 1976 and his final one being this year.

He released a number of albums during his career, including Fivin’ Around (1986), The Village (1988), Orleans Inspiration (1990), Blues & More, Vol. 1 (1992), and For All Seasons (1996), Vu-Du Menz(2000), The Game Has Just Begun (2002), and Live at Jazz Fest (2012).

In addition to performance, Butler championed music education. He conducted workshops, clinics, and master classes throughout the United States, as well as a camp for blind and visually impaired teen musicians.

Butler was also, surprisingly, a photographer. His work explored the sighted world’s relationship with the flat representational image. This aspect of his life’s work was featured in the documentary Dark Light: the Art of Blind Photographers.

Butler had a long relationship with WWOZ. He performed many times at WWOZ’s annual Piano Night benefit concert. He also visited and performed in our studios numerous times throughout the years, including in the first video, below, from February 2, 2017. The second video is from his performance at Piano Night 2016, honoring another New Orleans piano great, Allen Toussaint, with a stylized cover of his song ‘Get Out Of My Life Woman.’

He spent the last few years of his life alternating between cancer treatment in Germany and performing around the world.

Our sympathies go out to Henry Butler’s family and friends. Arrangements have not yet been announced.

Below, some of our many photographs of Henry Butler through the years:

A letter to Essence Festival Travelers

Hello, everyone, my name is Dee Hollins, Nola native and resident. I’m one of the top NOLA Bloggers and Media Personality, NOLA Chic. I wanted to share my blog and open up my Facebook pages to yall just in case you needed any NOLA tips while you are here for Essence. Please do not forget that New Orleans, our culture, delicious food or good times are created by the natives & we welcome you into our neighborhoods and small businesses. Please do not get think New Orleans is within the circle of the tourist trap of downtown. There’s so much more to New Orleans and we are a loving people who will go out of our way to make sure you have a ball while you are here.

Do yourself a favor and get your po-boys at a corner store, theres one a few blocks off Canal st on Basin, well it’s called Basin St Grill, there’s corners stores in every neighborhood just about within blocks of each other. The best soulfood, cooked by someone who will remind you of your long lost Auntie is cooking her you know what off for ya back there. You can get a full breakfast for like $3.00, grits, eggs and hot sausage will cure any hangover. Triangle Deli which is a gas station on Broad has some of the best gumbo.

Please do not buy any boiled seafood downtown you can get that from most corner store as well, but places like Canjun’s Seafood shld be where you get crawfish & etc from, but ish if you got it like that and not wanting to experience our NOLA flavor you go on ahead a ball out and eat some high priced crawfish in the Quarters.

If you like spicy food please try our Hot Sausage Po Boys which you can not find in the French Quarter’s at all and even though it’s a sausage its 100% beef.

We may have a 2nd Line, but sometimes its cancelled because of Essence but I’ll keep yall posted.

I have tips on my website

Yall can here me on WBOK on Saturday at 1030am and I’ll talk about some happenings around NOLA.

Ya’ll keep me in yall prayers, I’m gracing the Golden Carpet at the McDonald’s 365 Black Awards for the 1st time!!! Who shld I interview, what to wear like omg I need some tips too!!

But seriously I’m hear if yall need me and if I can give like the ultimate tip that would be to SPEAK to everyone who crosses your path!!! You are in the city of hospitality and we speak to everyone. Give eye contact and SPEAK please.

Speak to that homeless guy who will ask you for a dollar, just say “Man, I don’t have no cash on me and keep on pushing. That acknowledgment will mean more than you know. The very ppl you mean mugging and turning your nose up to will be that same person to have your back. Just because they are down on their luck doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect. Contrary to popular belief they are not the ones pickpocketing or robbing ppl.

That’s another thing, dont believe that hype on the news, crime happens everywhere, you all see what goes on here, because the spot light is on us. Just about all the crime that happens involve people who know each other. There’s always that one fool, but if you practice the same safety precautions you wld in your state you will be fine. If you plan on getting sloppy drunk then have a sober buddy and leave cash and bling at the hotel if you walking on Bourbon St..

Well that’s enough I’m giving all my lil tips in one post lol, but in the meantime Laissez les bon temps roule, Nola Chic
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I hv a FB Biz Pg- Neauxla Chic ⚜