Oscar Brown Jr., a legendary rhythm & blues and jazz singer, died yesterday (May 29) at age 78 following a two-month illness, his son said.

Oscar Brown Jr., a legendary rhythm & blues and jazz singer, died yesterday (May 29) at age 78 following a two-month illness, his son said.

The songwriter and playwright had been hospitalized in April and again in mid-May complaining of pain and paralysis in his legs. He had emergency surgery on May 16 to address an abscess on his lower spine, Napoleon Brown said.

Brown was known for such compositions "The Snake," "Signifyin' Monkey" and lyrics for Miles Davis' "All Blues." The son of a prosperous attorney and real estate broker, he began performing on radio as a teenager. His first album, Sin and Soul, came out in 1960. He appeared with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly.

Brown wrote more than a dozen plays and musicals. He was also active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, running unsuccessfully twice for political office -- first for the Illinois legislature and later for the U.S. Congress.

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