CHICAGO (CBS) — Legendary Chicago jazz pianist and educator Willie Pickens will have an honorary street named after him, not far from where he and his family lived in Hyde Park.
The event is set for Sunday December 2 at 10:00 a.m. at 5600 South Kimball Avenue. Pickens and his family lived on the street for many years. A mural of Pickens, created by artist Desi Mudo, was installed earlier this fall at Hyde Park’s Ray Elementary School. The mural was dedicated back in October.
Originally from Milwaukee, he moved to Chicago and his career spanned more than half a century. Pickens was a beloved musician and was a top Chicago jazz pianist who played behind many touring artists at the Jazz Showcase.
The long line of jazz greats include Eddie Harris, Elvin Jones and Quincy Jones. Pickens was also a music educator at both at Kenwood Academy High School and Northern Illinois University.
He was a resident of Hyde Park for more than 50 years. He died in December of 2017 while preparing for a performance at Lincoln Center in New York.
The honorary street sign is named Irma and Willie Pickens Way. Their daughter Bethany said her mother was the “family mastermind” who managed the pianist’s career and allowed him to be a husband, a father and artist.
“My mom was an outstanding home manager and managed his career. My mom would be thrilled,” said Pickens. “She was responsible for everything. From his styling to being civic minded and being an all-around great person. She encouraged my father to give of himself. This is a very special honor for us.”
Irma Pickens died in 2015.