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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Harmonica legend Larry Adler dies
Larry Adler
Adler was famous for his musical collaborations
Highly-acclaimed musician Larry Adler, widely acknowledged as the world's greatest harmonica player, has died at the age of 87.

US-born Adler, who had been in showbiz for an astonishing 73 years, had been battling cancer and recently suffered a series of health setbacks.

Larry Adler with harmonica
Adler brought new respect for the instrument
He died last night at St Thomas's Hospital in London surrounded by his family.

His former manager, Jonathan Shalit, said: "Only three weeks ago we were talking about him doing a concert in China."

"He was very active until the end, that was one of the things which made him such a remarkable man."

The musician's last recording was a duet of Young at Heart with Cerys Matthews from the Welsh pop band Catatonia.

She joked at the time that she preferred older men.

He was known for his original collaborations with musicians such as George Gershwin, Kate Bush, Sting and composer Vaughan Williams, but also his own virtuoso performances.

Showbusiness friends, including Elton John, Sting and Sir George Martin, had sent messages in recent days to the legend.

Jazz trumpeter and broadcaster Humphrey Lyttleton told BBC News Online what an inspiration Adler had been.

"He made wonderful music, you just can't get away from it, the sound he got out of the harmonica was as great as Yehudi Menuhin could get from a violin," he said.

"He could express himself equally well in pop, jazz or classical music."

Self-taught

Lawrence Cecil Adler, who was Jewish, was born in Baltimore, USA on 10 February 1914.

He taught himself the harmonica and began to play professionally at the age of 14.

Larry Adler blows out his birthday candles
Adler wrote his autobiography in 1985
Adler moved to the UK in 1949 having been forced to leave the States after accusations of pro-communist sympathies during the McCarthy era.

The slurs ruined his career in the US, though he was widely respected for his refusal to accuse other musicians or acquaintances.

Besides his musical fame, Adler also appeared in a number of films - playing himself.

He was also known as a prolific letter writer, his correspondence to the satirical magazine Private Eye becoming legendary.

He also wrote an autobiography - It Ain't Necessarily So - in 1985, and worked as a food critic for Harper's & Queen.

The 1953 movie Genevieve brought him an Oscar nomination for his work on the soundtrack, although his name was originally kept off the credits because of the McCarthy blacklisting.

Adler is survived by four children, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Gillian Hargreaves
"Larry Adler picked up the harmonica when he was nine"
Musician, and friend of Larry Adler, Sting
"He was one of the youngest old people I'd ever met"
See also:

07 Aug 01 | Music
Adler in his own words
07 Aug 01 | Music
Adler inspires warm tributes
15 Dec 99 | Entertainment
America's 20th century greats
17 Oct 00 | Education
Mouth organ degree awarded
07 Jul 01 | Wales
Catatonia given Royal approval
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