Jazz Institute of Chicago

Fred Hopkins Obituary

Fred Hopkins Obituary

Frederic J. Hopkins was born on October 11, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois to Cedric and Lula Hopkins. Fred attended Coleman Elementary School and DuSable High School. As a student at DuSable under the direction of the late Captain Walter Dyett, his musical career as a bassist began. He later studied bass with Joseph Gustafeste of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

During the late sixties and early seventies, Fred became one of the busiest and most sought after virtuoso bassists in Chicago's creative music environment. After forming the group Air, with Henry Threadgill and the late Steve McCall, Fred moved to New York to broaden his career in 1975. His successes escalated during the twenty-year tenure in New York, before returning to Chicago in 1996.

Fred collaborated with many great artists including: Douglas Ewart, Anthony Braxton, Von Freeman, Don Pullen, Harriet Bluiett, Amina Claudine Meyers, Oli Dara, Steve Potts, Nancy Ostrauski, Adegoke Steve Colson, Marion Brown, Fred Anderson, Andrew Cyrille, Brian Smith, Philip Wilson, Rita Warford, Ari Brown, Rufus Reid, Deidre Murray, Kevin Washington and countless other artists.

He toured nationally and internationally with Air, David Murray, Demey Redman, Oliver Lake, Richard Muhal Abrams, and Harriet Bluiett. He performed in France, Germany, Italy, Sicily, Japan, Bermuda, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Finland, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Luxembourg, India, Canada, Africa and Cuba.

Fred won several awards for his outstanding ability as a bassist:
Prix Jazz D'Avant Garde, Academic DuJazz, Paris, France, 1979
Charles Clark Scholarship, Chicago Civic Orchestra, 1972
Downbeat Critics Poll, Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, 1976–1988
Downbeat Record of The Year, recordings with the Group Air 1978–1980
Most Valuable Performer, Chicago Jazz Festival, 1985
His most recent award was presented by the City of Cambridge, Mass. in 1998.

Robert Palmer of the New York Times described Fred's unique style of mastering the bass stating "...his solos combine virtually every technique in the contemporary bass vocabulary, but in a flowing natural manner and with a deal of expressiveness and emotional weight...."
Fred will be missed not only by the music industry and fans that supported him for thirty-six years, but also by all the people whose lives he touched throughout his lifetime. He was a family man and was especially adored by his nieces and nephews.

Fred is on tour again. He has a permanent gig. He was called home to play "in the big band." On Thursday, January 7, 1999, 3:36 p.m., Fred departed this life at the University of Chicago Hospital after a short illness.

His father, Cedric Hopkins, Sr.; sister, Patricia; and brothers Cedric, Jr. and Bruce preceded him in death.

He leaves to cherish his memory, his loving mother, Lula Hopkins; brothers Allan, Joel, Dennis (Olivia) and Brian; sisters Jacqueline (James) and Cynthia; aunts Beatrice Mints and Minnie Jones; many nieces and nephews, cousins, colleagues and special friends.

Re-printed from the memorial service program.

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