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Los Angeles bluesman Artwork Jamal dead at 47

August 13, 2013|By Carla Rivera
  • Blues singer Artwork Jamal performs with his band at the downtown whiskey bar Seven Grand in 2010.
Blues singer Artwork Jamal performs with his band at the downtown whiskey… (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

Artwork Jamal once remarked that he not only sang the blues, he lived the blues. Someday, his history of hard luck and ill health may be spun into verse. But the powerful, deep-voiced Los Angeles native will sing no more.

Jamal, 47, died Aug. 6 from complications of diabetes, heart disease and other ailments, said his wife, Lida Parent-Harris.

His promising younger years and subsequent mental and physical challenges were chronicled in 2011 in a front-page story by Times staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez, with an accompanying photo gallery.

Arthur Detrich Harris III was adopted as a baby and raised by his mother and grandmother. He and his brother Nyles sang and played a variety of instruments. Artwork was even accepted into the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston. But a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia sidelined his music ambitions for many years.

He eventually worked as a sound engineer and got back to performing but was frequently hospitalized because of his weight. His performing name, Artwork Jamal, expressed his creative nature, he told Bermudez, and was as well an ode to a favorite sports figure, former Lakers star Jamaal Wilkes.

He was appreciative of his experiences, despite so many setbacks.

"I've seen hard times," he told Bermudez. "But there but for the grace of God, go I."

In recent years, Jamal, a downtown resident, had earned a reputation for transfixing audiences with old Delta and Chicago blues standards at downtown bars and nightspots.

“He loved to perform and he had a powerful presence that seemed to warm the room he played in or in a large stage at a festival, where he could play, sing and touch his audience,” said Parent-Harris.

Funeral arrangements are still pending. Downtown whiskey bar Seven Grand is planning a remembrance Aug. 21 with music and a gathering of friends.


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