Chick Corea dead of cancer at age 79

Keyboard virtuoso Chick Corea, who pushed the melodic boundaries of jazz during his five-decade career, has died of a rare form of cancer, his family announced Wednesday.

Corea, who was 79, had only recently been diagnosed with the disease before he died on Tuesday.

“He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather, and a great mentor and friend to so many,” Corea’s family said in a statement posted on Facebook. “Through his body of work and the decades he spent touring the world, he touched and inspired the lives of millions.”

Chick Corea’s Elektric Band performs at Blue Note in New York on Nov. 9, 2004.Hiroyuki Ito / Getty Images

The family’s post also included a farewell message from Corea to his friends, fans and fellow musicians.

“I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright,” he wrote. “It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.”

Addressing his “amazing musician friends,” Correa added: “It has been a blessing and an honor learning from and playing with all of you. My mission has always been to bring the joy of creating anywhere I could, and to have done so with all the artists that I admire so dearly — this has been the richness of my life.”

Born Armando Anthony Corea on June 12, 1941, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Corea established himself as a top piano player on the jazz circuit in the 1960s playing with greats like Stan Getz and Herbie Mann before he joined Miles Davis’ band.

In the 1970s, Corea formed the groundbreaking jazz fusion band “Return to Forever.”

Corky Siemaszko

Corky Siemaszko is a senior writer for NBC News Digital.

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