Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer, songwriter and composer Jon Batiste is on the ride of his life.
The New Orleans native has not slowed down since leaving his post as bandleader for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” His latest studio album, “World Music Radio,” is getting lots of love.
NPR called it a “a sprawling exploration of what global music can sound like,” and The Associated Press called it “a mesmerizing way to dial into Batiste’s eclectic and wide musicality.” Later this month, the story of Batiste’s last year will hit the big screen in the documentary American Symphony.
There are plenty of reasons why we love Jon Batiste. But these are the top five reasons we’re honoring the multi-hyphenate at this year’s Root 100 gala:
Music is in His Blood
Batiste comes from a long line of talented New Orleans musicians. His relatives include Lionel Batiste of the Treme Brass Band and Milton Batiste of the Olympia Brass Band. His father, Michael Batiste, performed with soul greats like Jackie Wilson and David Ruffin. Talk about a sweet-sounding family reunion!
His Life is the Subject of a Movie
To say that Batiste’s life has been a rollercoaster over the past year would be a serious understatement. In 2022, he rode the high of 11 Grammy nominations, including the coveted Album of the Year. But he was also dealing with the pressure of composing an original symphony for a performance at Carnegie Hall and the heartbreaking news that his now-wife Suleika Jaouad’s leukemia returned and that she would need a bone marrow transplant.
His emotional story is the subject of Matthew Heineman’s documentary American Symphony, which hits select theaters on November 24 and Netflix on November 29 through a partnership with the Obamas’ Higher Ground production company.
He Got Lil’ Wayne to Play the Guitar
Batiste’s latest studio album, “World Music Radio,” is a treat for the ears. One of our favorite tracks is Uneasy, a funky collab with his fellow New Orleans native Lil’ Wayne. Wayne’s verse adds a hardcore layer to Batiste’s soulful sound and Weezy shows off his guitar skills with a solo at the end.
He Can Even Give Beethoven a Little Bit of Soul
Batiste is all about using music to break barriers. He demonstrated his chops in an episode of “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace” when he completely floored the host by flipping the script on Beethoven’s “Für Elise” with a blues and gospel interpretation of the classic symphony.
“Music is put into these categories, right? It’s almost like little countries, you know?” he said. “And I find that with music, that’s not as productive. There’s a little bit of something that marginalizes artists when you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I have to place my music in this way or create it in this way in order for it to fit into the market.’”
He Puts on a Damn Good Show
Even if you don’t know a single Jon Batiste song, I dare you not to dance when the man takes the stage. Check out this clip of a performance on The Today Show when he brought down the house with his single, “Worship.” His energy is infectious. And if you’re not careful, he just might make you part of the act by pulling you on stage with him.
Don’t miss your chance to check out Batiste and the rest of the amazing Root 100 honorees at the legendary Apollo Theater in New York on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. Get your tickets now for the star-studded show hosted by Roy Wood Jr. And stay tuned for more information about our special guests.