Harold Battiste, Prolific New Orleans Jazz Musician, Dies at 83

Harold Battiste
Douglas Mason/Getty Images

Harold Battiste during the 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds Race Course on May 6, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Harold Battiste, a prolific New Orleans jazz musician who contributed to the careers of artists like Sonny and Cher, Sam Cooke and Dr. John, died on Friday, June 19. He was 83.

Battiste -- who worked as a saxophonist, pianist, producer, arranger and educator -- passed away after a lengthy illness, the Times-Picayune reports.

The musician suffered a stroke in 1993 that limited his ability to play sax, and his health had steadily declined in recent years. A specific cause of death was not given.

During his six-decade career, Battiste founded A.F.O. Records, New Orleans' first musicians-owned label, and worked with Cooke on "You Send Me" and "A Change Is Gonna Come." In the 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles to work as the musical director for Sonny and Cher, and also helped launch Dr. John, according to the Times-Picayune.

A.F.O. ("All For One") went on to release Barbara George 1961 hit "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)," along with Ellis Marsalis first album, Monkey Puzzle. Battiste sometimes played alongside Marsalis in bands at the Dew Drop Inn and on Bourbon Street during the 1950s.

In addition to working with Sonny Bono and Cher for 15 years, during which he contributed the soprano sax melody to the pair's 1965 hit "I Got You Babe," Battiste also produced Dr. John's first two albums in the late '60s.
Later in his career, in 1989, Battiste reportedly joined the jazz studies faculty at the University of New Orleans. He earned a degree in music education from Dillard University in 1952.

Funeral arrangements are still pending.


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.