Billy Taylor was born on July 24th, 1921 and he was an jazz pianist, composer, broadcaster, and educator. Taylor was born in North Carolina, but he moved to Washington D.C. when he was five years old. He received classical piano lessons from Henry Grant, who had previously taught Duke Ellington. At age 13, Taylor made his first professional appearance playing the piano. After graduating college with a degree in music, he moved to New York City to play the piano professionally. Once there, he joined Webster’s Quartet, where he met his mentor Art Tatum.
In 1952, Taylor came out with one of his most popular tunes, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, which gained the attention of the Civil Rights Movement and was also covered by Nina Simone on one of her albums. His career as a broadcaster was successful as well; he founded Jazzmobile, and he also served as the Musical Director of NBC’s The Subject is Jazz. Taylor later created a record label called Taylor Made to document his music. After he died in 2002, he was honored with a memorial service in Harlem where some of his close associates performed. Taylor had a higher television profile than many other jazz artists and he used his eloquence to inform and advocate for others through his passion for music.