A longtime and treasured member of Houston’s music community has passed away. Yvonne Washington, who wowed audiences here and across the globes with her often stunning jazz, blues, gospel, and soul vocals, died on February 23 after a brief illness. She was 72.
“There was such a great scope to her art, her dynamics,” Keith Vivens, her bassist and music director, told Andrew Dansby of the Houston Chronicle. “She could sing soft and low, or high, and everything was fresh. I’ve worked with a million singers, and I don’t know anybody who had a natural ability to sing a song like she did.”
That comment was a common chorus regarding Washington, who was a mainstay of jazz clubs, power performances, and even weddings (including this writer’s). Her rendition of “Amazing Grace” is nearly legendary in Houston circles, soaring, triumphant, and evocative.
Washington performed for casual crowds, adoring fans, and notables such as Former President George HW Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. Hailing from San Antonio, she spent time in Austin, toured with legends such as Stevie Wonder, and eventually made her home in Houston.
Through albums and now cherished live performances, she earned generations of fans, especially through her ability to connect, entertain, and surprise during shows, school visits, and even in chance meetings.
The beloved vocalist leaves behind her husband Jerrell Washington, her daughters Vonda Oliver and LaVonne Simmons, and their families.