Birthday: Jimmy McGriff

Though he is a multi-instrumentalist, Jimmy McGriff is best known as an organist who began his career cutting soul music but later specialized in a soul/jazz/blues fusion.

He was born James Harrell McGriff Jr., on April 3, 1936, in Philadelphia to pianist parents. The first musical instruments McGriff played were bass, saxophone, drums and vibraphone. He then moved on to piano and studied music at Juilliard, before serving in the Korean War.

McGriff spent two years as a policeman, before studying the organ. After deciding to pursue a musical career, he scored a top-20 pop hit in 1963 with "I Got a Woman." McGriff then enjoyed a few R&B hits, including "The Worm" (1969).

Beginning in the '70s, McGriff's music became more of a fusion, and even flirted with pop. Two years ago, McGriff issued Straight Up. He is scheduled to release a new LP, McGriff's House Party,, later this month.

Other birthdays Monday: Eddie Murphy, 39; and Phillipe Wynne (Spinners), 1941–1984.