George Duke (born January 12, 1946, San Rafael, CA, died August 5, 2013) was an American jazz pianist, synthesizer and keyboard player and singer.
Collaboration with Jean-Luc Ponty
He began playing with Jean-Luc Ponty in 1969 and recorded two albums together, The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio (1969) and King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa (1970).
Between 1970 and 1975 Duke was a prominent member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. He performed on the following albums: Chunga's Revenge (1970), 200 Motels (1971), Waka/Jawaka (1972), The Grand Wazoo (1972), Over-Nite Sensation (1973), Apostrophe (’) (1974), Roxy & Elsewhere (1974), One Size Fits All (1975), Bongo Fury (1975), Studio Tan (1978) and Sleep Dirt (1979). He made a return on Them Or Us (1984).
Performances by him can also be heard on the compilation records You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1, You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 2, You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 3, You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 4, You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 6, Playground Psychotics, The Lost Episodes, Läther, Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa, Quaudiophiliac, The Dub Room Special, Freaks & Motherfuckers, Unmitigated Audacity, Piquantique, Disconnected Synapses, Tengo Na Minchia Tanta and At The Circus.
George Duke may be most fondly remembered as the lead vocalist on Inca Roads. In many interviews he thanked Zappa for freeing him from his snobbish and serious attitude towards music.
George Duke was a prominent solo artist. On his album Feel (LP, BASF MC-25355, October 28, 1974) Zappa plays guitar on the tracks "Love" and "Old Slippers" under the pseudonym Obdewl'l X. Duke covered Zappa's Echidna's Arf (Of You) and Uncle Remus on his album The Aura Will Prevail (LP, MPS MC25613, 1975). On his album I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry (1975) former Zappa band members Janet Ferguson, Bruce Fowler, Tom Fowler, Emil Richards and Ruth Underwood all have guest appearances. On his next album Liberated Fantasies (1975) Ruth Underwood and Emil Richards returned as guest musicians, alongside Napoleon Murphy Brock. Cal Schenkel designed the album cover, while Herb Cohen managed the record. Richards also provided percussion on Duke's album From Me to You (1977), while Murphy Brock also sang on Duke's albums Don't Let Go (1978) and Follow The Rainbow (1979), Master of the Game (1979). On Dukey Treats (2008) Murphy Brock and Vinnie Colaiuta perform.
Other appearances and credits
George Duke can be seen in the films 200 Motels (1971), Baby Snakes (1979), Dub Room Special and The Amazing Mr. Bickford. He is interviewed in the documentaries The True Story Of 200 Motels (1987), Frank Zappa - The Freak-Out List (2010) and Frank Scheffer's Frank Zappa: The Present-Day Composer Refuses To Die (2000), Frank Zappa Phase II: The Big Note (2002) and Frank Zappa: Pioneer Of Future Music, parts 1 & 2 (2007).
He passed away in 2013 at age 67.