Harlem street renamed for jazz pianist Dr. Billy Taylor

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HARLEM, Manhattan (PIX11) — Jazz was back on this corner of 138th Street and Fifth Avenue in Harlem, in tribute to the great, late jazz pianist and educator Dr. Billy Taylor.

Dr. Taylor, his wife Theodora and his children lived on this corner in a Riverton Square apartment in the 1960s.

“This is where a lot of my dad’s music was written,” Kim Taylor-Thompson told PIX11. “His signature piece, ‘I wish I knew how it feels to be free’ was written here so the street is really a part of our lives. To have dad associated with it is incredibly special.”

Dr. Billy Taylor was a consummate jazz pianist who played with all the jazz greats, but perhaps equally important he brought Jazz back to the people who couldn’t afford to go to fancy nightclubs, through Jazzmobile, bringing back jazz to the streets of Harlem.

“Billy Taylor was an icon, the epitome of people who have done major things, not just for the city and state, but the world.”

I first met Dr. Billy Taylor when I was in third grade because he was the father of my new classmate, Kim Taylor.

“Her father played jazz for us and he was the coolest dad,” I told the crowd. “I so wanted to have a father like Billy Taylor.”

Tony Thompson proudly told me his late father-in-law, Dr. Billy Taylor “was somebody who’s been a part of the fabric of this community. He brought so much to the city,” he added.

With Congressman Rangel and former Mayor Dinkins in attendance, the corner of 138th and Fifth Avenue was officially renamed Dr. Billy Taylor Way.

“He was from Harlem,” his daughter said. “And he gave the music back to Harlem so this is really quite special.”

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