Music

Belgian Jazz Legend Toots Thielemans Dies at 94

Belgian musician Toots Thielemans plays harmonicza during a ceremony for his 90th birthday at Brussels' City Hall

Belgian musician Toots Thielemans plays harmonicza during a ceremony for his 90th birthday at Brussels’ City Hall April 29, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Sebastien Pirlet/Files

Toots Thielemans, the Belgian jazz harmonica and guitar player who worked with many of the postwar greats, died on Monday aged 94, his agency said.

Born in Brussels in 1922, Thielemans spent the early years of a 65-year career as professional musician touring Europe, playing for the likes of Benny Goodman.

He moved to the US in 1952 and worked with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Quincy Jones, as well as Stevie Wonder and Pat Metheny, among many others.

He also played on many film soundtracks, including Midnight Cowboy in 1969 which starred Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman and won three Academy Awards.

Perhaps his best-known harmonica performance was on the theme song to the children’s television show Sesame Street, heard at the start and finish of each episode.

Thielemans, who retired in 2014, was recovering from a broken arm in a Brussels hospital where he died on Monday morning.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said: “We have lost a great musician, a warm personality.”