CHICAGO (CBS) — Music lovers are mourning the loss of a Chicago jazz icon.

Willie Pickens was a giant in Chicago music for more than half a century.

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He passed away Tuesday at the age of 86.

His daughter Bethany Pickens said he collapsed while rehearsing at Lincoln Center in New York City and died of a heart attack.

The famed jazz icon died Tuesday at the age of 86. (Credit: DCASE)

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Pickens began his career in 1961 playing on a hit record for Eddie Harris.

He was also a retired Chicago Public School teacher and a member of the Hyde Park Union Church.


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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Pickens a “towering figure in Chicago’s cultural landscape.” adding “his impact will always be felt across our city’s clubs and stages and his music will be remembered in the hearts of pianists and jazz lovers everywhere.”