Notable Leader

Oscar Peterson
Quebec

Oscar Peterson

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, CC, CQ, OOnt (August 15, 1925 – December 23, 2007) was a Canadian jazz pianist and composer. He was called the “Maharaja of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, but simply “O.P.” by his friends. He released over 200 recordings, won eight Grammy Awards, and received numerous other awards and honours. He is considered one of the greatest jazz pianists and played thousands of concerts worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.

Peterson was born to immigrants from the West Indies; his father worked as a porter for Canadian Pacific Railway. Peterson grew up in the neighbourhood of Little Burgundy in Montreal, Quebec. It was in this predominantly black neighbourhood that he found himself surrounded by the jazz culture that flourished in the early 20th century. At the age of five, Peterson began honing his skills with the trumpet and piano.

Peterson’s work earned him eight Grammy awards over the years and he was elected to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1978. He also belongs to the Juno Awards Hall of Fame and the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame. In 2013, Peterson was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (the country’s highest civilian state order for talent and service) in 1972, and promoted to Companion of the order (the highest degree of merit and humanity), in 1984. He was also a member of the Order of Ontario, a Chevalier of the National Order of Quebec, and an officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France.

On December 23, 2007, Peterson died of kidney failure at his home in Mississauga, Ontario.