July 26, 2003 by

Joel Brandon


Categories: Musicians

Joel Alexander Brandon, “The Master Whistler,” died on July 15 from pancreatic cancer. He was 56.
Brandon was a Chicago native who studied composition at the American Conservatory of Music. Although he sang and played the flute, Brandon’s true talent was whistling.
By sucking air in through pursed lips, Brandon had a three-range octave whistle that won national and international contests. He whistled the “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the White Sox and the San Francisco Giants, and performed with several world-class orchestras. In 1997, Brandon was inducted into the Whistlers Hall of Fame. He released his debut CD, “Haven’t We All…?” in 2001.

5 Responses to Joel Brandon

  1. Leah

    Joel was a lifelong friend of my godmother, Beverly Normand. I first met him this past February at my great aunt’s funeral. Just as it was over,and I was becoming overwhelmed with emotion, he broke out in an inspirational song. He was sick then himself. I really appreciated him being there.

  2. joel alexander brandon

    As soon as I knew there was a musician whose name I shared, I became a complete admirer of Joel and his fabulous talent.
    May he rest in peace and his spirit go on forever – his name and musical talent certainly do within me.
    Joel Alexander Brandon, London, England.

  3. Beverly Ross Normand

    I met Joel when I was about sixteen years old.
    He often rehearsed with my brother, drummer Terry
    Ross. Joel was a master at flute well before he
    graduated from high school. We grew up together,
    supported one another in artistic and other
    endeavors, and shared spiritual, political and
    artistic beliefs. Joel inspired me to continue
    writing my sacred music and between performances
    and travels abroad, he helped transcribe my
    music and convinced me that I should have it
    recorded. During the 1990’s, we did some collaborative work and recorded a few of my tunes
    at Soto Sounds in Chicago. Joel transcribed music
    for many famous singers and worked with groups
    like Earth, Wind, and Fire, Nadine McKinnor,
    Donnie Hathaway, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and
    others. Joel was a great jeweler and artist, too.
    He was a multitalented genius who was loved and
    inspired by people all over the world. He had a
    close, lifelong association with AACM musicians
    in Chicago and New York. When he became ill, a
    committee of musicians, artists, and scholars
    assisted with all of his needs. Dr. Chris Coley,
    Don and Gloria Moye, Bobby Sengstacke, Vivian Davis, Bobby Washington, Evod Magek, and others
    in Chicago assisted. Muhal Richard Abrams, George
    Lewis and musicians from all over the United States contacted Joel. Chicago musicians gave
    wonderful benefit concerts for him.
    Joel enjoyed my poetry, so as soon as he became
    ill, I started writing poems for him weekly.
    I compiled the poems in a manuscript called
    “Tasting Breath: Poems, Prayers and Potpourri
    for the Whistler.” I plan to have this manuscript
    published in memorium.
    Joel’s final songs were gospel songs which he
    bequeathed to me and which I must also publish.
    These are the songs I reviewed for him and made
    suggestions on for lyrics. Hopefully these songs
    will be recorded, too. Meanwhile his spirit and
    genius live on through recordings, clocks and art he produced. He lives in the hearts of all of the
    artists, musicians, and students he helped.

  4. Mary Britton

    Dear Beverly, I would love to share with you. As one of the ways our diasporic spirits communicate is through our ancestors…I knew Joel through a series of relationships with members of the original founders of the AACM in Hyde Park Chicago, circa 1969…and I am true to this history. I have been away very long, and was so saddened this evening to read years hence of Joel’s departure. Please do write to me if ever you so desire. I had so many things to say to Joel about his talents…cannot bel. he had to leave so soon. Peace, Mary Britton

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