The "Take 5" performer, who was inducted as a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2009, died of heart failure

By Kevin O'Donnell
December 05, 2012 01:30 PM
Mickey Adair/Getty

Dave Brubeck, the pianist, composer and leader of the iconic Dave Brubeck Quartet, died Wednesday at age 91 in Connecticut, according to the AP. The cause was heart failure.

Brubeck, whose music helped define the style of West Coast Jazz in the ’50s, is best known for the 1959 classic “Take 5,” which was written by collaborator Paul Desmond and featured on the album Time Out. To date, it remains one of the top-selling jazz records of all time.

Brubeck wasn’t just a music icon – he was also a patriot. Born in California in 1920, he was drafted into the army to serve in Europe during World War II. Upon returning home in 1946, music teacher Darius Milhaud encouraged him to pursue music.

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“He told me if I didn’t stick to jazz, I’d be working out of my own field and not taking advantage of my American heritage,” Brubeck told TIME in a 1954 cover story.

That heritage was cemented in 2009, when Brubeck was inducted as a Kennedy Center Honoree for his lifetime of contributions to American culture – one of the nation’s most esteemed honors.

Of his love for music, Brubeck told TIME, “When I get inspired, I’m the happiest guy in the world.”

Brubeck is survived by his wife Iola, sons Darius, Dan, Chris, and Matthew, daughter Cathy, and two generations of grandchildren.