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Biography

  • Born

    29 January 1927

  • Died

    6 April 2013 (aged 86)

Donald Walbridge Shirley (January 29, 1927 – April 6, 2013) was an American classical and pianist and composer. He recorded many albums for Cadence during the 1950s and 1960s, experimenting with jazz with a classical influence. He wrote organ symphonies, piano concerti, a cello concerto, three string quartets, a one-act opera, works for organ, piano and violin, a symphonic tone poem based on the novel Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, and a set of "Variations" on the legend of Orpheus in the Underworld.

Donald Walbridge Shirley was born on January 29, 1927, in Pensacola, Florida, to Jamaican immigrants, Stella Gertrude (1903–1936), a teacher, and Edwin S. Shirley (1885–1982), an Episcopal priest. His birthplace was sometimes given as Kingston, Jamaica, because promoters advertised him as being Jamaican-born.

Shirley was married to Jean C. Hill in Cook County, Illinois on December 23, 1952. but they later divorced.

He died of heart disease April 6, 2013, at the age of 86.

During the 1960s, Shirley went on a number of concert tours, some in Deep South states, hiring New York nightclub bouncer Tony "Lip" Vallelonga as his driver and bodyguard. Their story is dramatized in the 2018 film Green Book.

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