Jazz Musician, Ray Charles Band Member Newman Dies

David ‘Fathead’ Newman, jazz saxophonist/flutist and member of the Ray Charles band, died Jan. 20 of pancreatic cancer in upstate New York. He was 75.

Newman graduated from Lincoln High School in Dallas, where his music teacher gave him the nickname ‘Fathead’. He played saxophone and flute at local shows during his two years at Jarvis Christian College before deciding to pursue a musical career. While touring dancehalls with Buster Smith, Newman met Ray Charles and the two connected personally and musically. In 1954, Newman began a twelve-year stint as the tenor sax soloist in Charles’s band, which also lead to the 1959 Atlantic Records album “Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David Newman.”

His work with Charles led to collaborations with B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Joe Cocker, and Eric Clapton, among others. Newman began releasing mainstream jazz albums on Muse Records in 1980 before returning to Atlantic Records at the end of the decade. He finished his career on High Note Records, where he released the Ray Charles tribute “I Remember Brother Ray” in 2005 and his final album, “Diamondhead,” in 2008.

David is survived by his wife and manager, Karen; four sons; seven grandchildren; and three great grandchildren.

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