Grandpa Elliott was a street musician who became famous for his soulful singing and harmonica playing in New Orleans. He was also part of the global music project Playing for Change, which featured him in a viral video of the song “Stand by Me”. He passed away on March 8, 2022, at the age of 77, due to complications from a skin infection. His death saddened his fans and admirers, who remembered him as a kind and generous man who spread joy and love through his music.
A Life of Music and Struggle
Grandpa Elliott was born as Elliot Small on July 10, 1944, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He grew up in a poor and abusive household, where his mother was killed by his stepfather when he was a child. He found solace in music, learning to play the harmonica from his uncle, who was a professional musician. He also taught himself to sing and dance, and started performing on the streets for tips.
He moved to New York City with his family in the early 1960s, where he pursued a career as a soul singer. He recorded some singles, such as “I’m a Devil” and “Girls Are Made for Lovin’”, and toured with The Temptations. He also appeared in a stage revival of Show Boat. However, he did not achieve much success or recognition in the music industry, and returned to New Orleans in the 1970s.
He resumed his street performances, becoming a fixture of the French Quarter, where he entertained tourists and locals with his bluesy renditions of popular songs. He wore his signature outfit of overalls, red shirt, and floppy hat, and often played with his friend and guitarist Michael “Stoney B” Stone. He also became known as Grandpa Elliott, a nickname given to him by a young girl who thought he looked like her grandfather.
A Global Sensation
Grandpa Elliott’s life changed in 2005, when he was approached by Mark Johnson, a music producer who was working on a project called Playing for Change. The project aimed to connect musicians from different countries and cultures through music, and to promote peace and social change. Johnson asked Grandpa Elliott to sing “Stand by Me”, a classic song by Ben E. King, and recorded him with a mobile studio.
Johnson then traveled around the world, recording other musicians playing and singing along to the same song. He edited the recordings into a video, which showed Grandpa Elliott and the other musicians in their respective locations, creating a global collaboration. The video was uploaded to YouTube in 2008, and became a viral hit, with over 150 million views to date.
The video also launched a new phase of Grandpa Elliott’s career, as he became part of the Playing for Change band, which toured around the world and performed at various events and festivals. He also signed a record deal with Playing for Change Records, and released his solo album, “Sugar Sweet”, in 2009. He appeared on TV shows such as “The Tonight Show” and “The Colbert Report”, and received praise and admiration from celebrities and fans alike.
A Legacy of Love and Joy
Grandpa Elliott passed away on March 8, 2022, at Ochsner Hospital in Jefferson, Louisiana, after being hospitalized for over a month due to a skin infection that had spread to his bloodstream. His son confirmed his death on Facebook, and asked for prayers and respect for the family. Playing for Change also announced his death on Twitter, and thanked him for his valuable lessons and for sharing his gift of music with the world.
Grandpa Elliott’s death was mourned by many people who were touched by his music and his personality. They expressed their condolences and tributes on social media, and shared their memories and stories of meeting him or seeing him perform. They remembered him as a humble and gracious man, who had a beautiful smile and a warm heart. They also celebrated his music, which transcended boundaries and brought people together.
Grandpa Elliott cause of death was a tragic end to a remarkable life. He overcame many hardships and challenges, and never gave up on his passion and his dream. He used his music as a way to express himself, to connect with others, and to spread a message of love and peace. He was a street musician who became a global sensation, and a grandfather figure who touched millions of hearts. He will always be remembered and missed by his family, his friends, and his fans. Rest in peace, Grandpa Elliott. You are in a better place now.