We are deeply saddened to share the news that George Winston has passed on after a 10-year battle with cancer. George quietly and painlessly left this world while asleep on Sunday, June 4, 2023.
George courageously managed serious cancers, including having a successful bone marrow transplant for Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) in 2013 at City of Hope, in Duarte, California, that gratefully extended his life by 10 years. Throughout his cancer treatments, George continued to write and record new music, and he stayed true to his greatest passion: performing for live audiences while raising funds for Feeding America to help fight the national hunger crisis along with donating proceeds from each of his concerts to local food banks. Across an illustrious career spanning more than 50 years, George’s music first became known and loved by his fans with the release of his two most iconic albums, Autumn (1980) and December (1982). George's recordings evolved with the times while garnering a GRAMMY Award for Forest (plus five GRAMMY nominations) and selling over 15 million albums. George touched the hearts of generations with his acclaimed solo acoustic piano compositions. From his early days in Montana, Mississippi and Florida, to his later life living in the San Francisco Bay Area and touring to cities worldwide, America’s beautiful landscapes and natural seasons shaped his singular instrumental folk piano. With 16 solo piano albums to his name, George recorded brilliant piano music, which includes tribute recordings for Vince Guaraldi, The Doors, a Hurricane Katrina relief benefit, Gulf Coast and Louisiana Wetlands benefits, September 11 benefit, a cancer research benefit for City of Hope, the Peanuts episode “This Is America Charlie Brown: The Birth Of The Constitution,” among others. George’s legacy includes his beloved catalog as well as an archive of his own acoustic guitar and harmonica recordings, and albums by an array of Hawaiian slack key artists on his own record label, Dancing Cat Records. George is pre-deceased by his parents, George and Mary Winston, and is survived by his sister, niece and nephew.
The family of George Winston will hold a private memorial service. For donations in memory of George Winston, please visit:
City Of Hope Cancer Center:
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center:
George Winston grew up mainly in Montana and also spent his later formative years in Mississippi and Florida. During this time, his favorite music was instrumental rock and instrumental R&B, including Floyd Cramer, the Ventures, Booker T & The MG's, Jimmy Smith, and many more. Inspired by R&B, jazz, blues, and rock (especially the Doors), George began playing the organ in 1967. In 1971 he switched to the acoustic piano after hearing recordings from the 1920s and the 1930s by the legendary stride pianists Thomas "Fats" Waller and the late Teddy Wilson. In addition to working on stride piano, he also at this time came up with this own style of melodic instrumental music on solo piano, called folk piano. In 1972, he recorded his first solo piano album, BALLADS AND BLUES 1972, for the late guitarist John Fahey's Takoma label.
Since 1980 George has released fifteen other solo piano albums: AUTUMN (1980), WINTER INTO SPRING (1982), DECEMBER (1982), SUMMER (1991), FOREST (1994), LINUS & LUCY - THE MUSIC OF VINCE GUARALDI (1996), which features compositions by the late jazz pianist, including Cast Your Fate to the Wind and pieces from the Peanuts' TV specials; PLAINS (1999), which was inspired by his Eastern Montana upbringing, NIGHT DIVIDES THE DAY - THE MUSIC OF THE DOORS (2002), and MONTANA - A LOVE STORY (2004), GULF COAST BLUES & IMPRESSIONS - A HURRICANE RELIEF BENEFIT (2006) and GULF COAST BLUES & iMPRESSIONS 2 - A LOUISIANA WETLANDS BENEFIT (2012)
Also, in 2001 George released REMEMBRANCE - A MEMORIAL BENEFIT, a six-song CD of piano, guitar and harmonica solos, to benefit those affected by 9/11. He also recorded the solo piano soundtrack for the Rabbit Ears video of the children's story, THE VELVETEEN RABBIT (www.rabbitears.com), and the soundtrack for the Peanuts episode, THIS IS AMERICA CHARLIE BROWN: THE BIRTH OF THE CONSTITUTION, as well as a solo guitar soundtrack for SADAKO AND THE THOUSAND PAPER CRANES.
His solo piano release LOVE WILL COME - THE MUSIC OF VINCE GUARALDI, VOL. 2 (released 2/2/10), features compositions by the late jazz pianist, including pieces from the Peanuts' TV specials. His album SPRING CAROUSEL-A CANCER RESEARCH BENEFIT was released in 2016.
Pianist George Winston released his 16th solo piano album, NIGHT, on RCA Records on May 6, 2022. NIGHT is a vivid look into Winston’s nocturnal world where life begins as the sun sets on each day. NIGHT features four original Winston compositions, as well as renditions of the late New Orleans pianist Allen Toussaint’s “Freedom For The Stallion”, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” plus additional interpretations. Two decades in the making, NIGHT turns darkness into a prism of colors. “The night has many colors, they’re just more subtle. And I am nocturnal” says George.
NIGHT is where things truly come alive for George. Whether on a performance stage, in a midnight recording session, practicing late at night, driving solo through rural or urban city spaces,or witnessing nature grow under the moonlight, he celebrates his 50 year career with this recording.
“NIGHT is a collection of songs that I’ve recorded at five different studios,” says George Winston. “There is a natural wonder that only occurs in the evening and NIGHT basically scales the clock from midnight to 7am. With every dark hour that passes, daytime will sooner occur. The sun shines down on the earth all day, it warms the oceans and the forests, and awakens the majority of earth’s inhabitants, and at sundown the nocturnal animals wake up for nighttime activities, and there are feelings of solitude and uncertainty. This all translates well for inspiration for compositions and interpretations of other composers’ pieces.
George Winston is undeniably a household name. He's inspired fans and musicians alike with his singular solo acoustic piano songs for more than 40 years while selling 15 million albums. A tireless road warrior playing nearly 100 concerts annually, live performance for Winston is akin to breathing. Winston's music is evocative, offering us all a chance to take a step back from our perpetually busy lives and let our minds adventurously wander. Night is a portrayal of Winston's place in a chaotic world - his compositions extend solace with an idiosyncratic grace.