Reggie Andrews — co-writer and producer of the Dazz Band’s Grammy Award-winning hit “Let It Whip” and beloved music educator whose former mentees range from Leon “Ndugu” Chancler and Patrice Rushen to Terrace Martin and The Internet’s Syd — died on June 23 in Upland, Calif. The 74-year-old’s cause of death was not disclosed.
“Creative without sacrificing responsibility. Forward thinking without abandoning tradition. Dedicated to sharing knowledge,” said Rushen of Andrews in an email message sent to Billboard. “He touched so many of us … taught so many us … saved so many of us. His legacy is that he introduced us to the best in ourselves and showed us a path, through our artistry and excellence, to shine.”
Born January 2, 1948, Andrews was a Los Angeles native who graduated from Washington Preparatory High School. From there, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in music education and music theory from Pepperdine College in 1969. He followed that with a masters degree from California State University, Long Beach.
Andrews, also a pianist, launched his professional career as a musician by working with Willie Bobo’s Latin jazz groups before graduating from Pepperdine. During a later stint at Motown Records, Andrews segued into A&R, composing and arranging via collaborations with acts such as DeBarge, Switch, Rick James (“Super Freak”) and the Dazz Band — co-writing that group’s 1982 No. 1 R&B hit “Let It Whip” with Chancler.
It was also in the late ‘60s that Andrews began his estimable career as a music educator. Becoming a classroom teacher at Alain Leroy Locke High School in L.A. in 1969, he eventually advanced to music department chair at the school.
Before retiring in 2010, Andrews also taught at other schools in the greater Watts area of L.A., including Fremont High School, Los Angeles Southwest College and King-Drew Medical & Science Magnet in addition to his college alma mater in Long Beach. Along the way, Andrews mentored a long list of future music stars including Tyrese Gibson, music director Rickey Minor, The Pharcyde, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, Kamasi Washington and two current members of Earth Wind & Fire’s horn section: Gary Bias and Reggie Young.
“Mr. Andrews is the reason I even exist as a musician besides my dad,” commented Thundercat. “He changed me and my brothers’ lives for the better amongst many, many musicians and artists. The values and principles he instilled in me as a child and as a musician are still the pillars that drive me. He literally laid the foundation of music in Los Angeles: a teacher, a father, a true musician. I will miss him so much. “
Added Terrace Martin, “Reggie Andrews did more than teach music. He taught young Black boys how to become Black men. He would say, ‘Hold your head up, keep your word, expect the unexpected and so much more.’ Reggie had a special power of being able to talk to me about all of my problems and hand me a ton of solutions and options. That’s a Master Teacher.“
Andrews is survived by his wife Sharon Takaha; children India, Nia, Aisha, Dominique, Marla and Renon; sister Yolanda Uta Reed and a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.