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Mon, 03.22.1943

George Benson, Musician, and Singer born

George Benson

*George Benson was born on this date in 1943.  He is a Black jazz guitarist, singer, and songwriter.  

George Washington Benson was born and raised in the Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  At seven, he first played the ukulele in a corner drug store, for which he was paid a few dollars. At the age of eight, he played guitar.  in an unlicensed nightclub on Friday and Saturday nights, but the police soon closed the club down. At the age of 9, he started to record.

Out of the four sides he cut, two were released: "She Makes Me Mad" backed with "It Should Have Been Me."  Leroy Kirkland produced the single for RCA's rhythm and blues label, Groove Records.  As he has stated in an interview, Benson's introduction to show business hindered his schooling. When this was discovered (tied with the failure of his single), his guitar was impounded. Luckily his stepfather made him a new guitar.

He began his professional career at the age of 21 as a jazz guitarist. Benson uses a rest-stroke picking technique similar to gypsy jazz players such as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian.  A former child prodigy, Benson became prominent in the 1960s, playing soul jazz with Jack McDuff and others. He then launched a successful solo career, alternating between jazz, pop, R&B, and scat singing. His album Breezin' was certified triple-platinum, hitting no. 1 on the Billboard album chart in 1976.  He was popular through the 1980s and still has a large following.  Benson has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  In 1990, Benson was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music from the Berklee College of Music.  

To commemorate the long relationship between Benson and Ibanez guitars and to celebrate 30 years of collaboration on the GB Signature Models, Ibanez created the GB30TH, a limited-edition model with a gold-foil finish.   In 2009, Benson was recognized by the National Endowment of the Arts as a Jazz Master, the nation's highest honor in jazz.  Benson performed at the 49th issue of the Ohrid Summer Festival in North Macedonia on July 25, 2009. In the fall of 2009, Benson finished recording an album entitled Songs and Stories with Marcus Miller.  He performed at the Java Jazz Festival on March 4–6, 2011. In 2011, Benson released the album Guitar Man, revisiting his 1960s/early-1970s guitar-playing roots with a 12-song collection of covers of both jazz and pop standards.  In June 2013, Benson released his fourth album for Concord, Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole, which included Wynton Marsalis and Judith Hill.

In 2013, he performed at Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro, 35 years after his first performance at this festival, which was then the inaugural one.  In 2016, Benson participated as a mentor in the Sky Arts program Guitar Star in the search for the UK and Republic of Ireland's most talented guitarist.  In 2018, Benson signed with Mascot Label Group.  On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed George Benson among hundreds of musicians whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.  

Benson has been married to Johnnie Lee since 1965 and has seven children. Benson describes his music as focusing more on love and romance, due to his commitment to his family and religious practices, with Benson serving as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.   Benson has been a resident of Englewood, New Jersey.   

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