Jazz Insights: Clay Osborne

The late Clay Osborne was one of Rhode Island’s finest male jazz singers. He passed away in 2006, at age 79.
His brother Billy, who is considered one of the west coast’s veteran pianists and arrangers, said many years ago, “If my older brother Clay had chosen to leave Providence for New York, Las Vegas or LA, he would have been one of the world’s greatest jazz singers. No one performs the American Songbook like Clay Osborne.”
The Osborne family produced three talented musicians. Clay was the oldest. He played terrific piano and sung with unusual emotion. His voice carried personal feelings for the melody, almost religious in presentation. His audience could see that his heart was pushing the beauty of the piece he was performing.
Being the oldest of his large family, he refused to leave Providence, feeling the need to watch over family things happening here in Rhode Island. He continued to perform in southern New England, gaining a good reputation and demand throughout the area. His performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in Saratoga, New York, was among his career highlights.
Those who followed Clay’s career were rewarded with memorable performances that cannot be repeated anywhere.  How lucky we were to have been part of his regular audience during his incredible performances.
Clay was proud of his two successful brothers who made music their careers. Billy Osborne became a gifted pianist and arranger for the late Ray Charles, traveling with him throughout the world. The youngest brother, Jeffrey Osborne, has risen to the top rank of performing singers in today’s entertainment business. Rhode Island continues to be proud of the performing Osborne brothers.

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