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Published: 2003/04/08

Babatunde Olatunji 1927 – 2003

Legendary drummer Babatunde Olatunji passed away Sunday at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. Olatunjis 1959 album, Drums of Passion was a top 10 hit in the United States, long before world music became a popular genre. Many fellow musicians were hugely influenced by the record, including John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and a young Mickey Hart, who decades later told Olatunji that he was the reason he became a drummer. Babatunde was first invited to open for the Grateful Dead in November of 1985 and joined the group on stage on numerous occasions. Hart and Olatunji would work together often in the coming years, most notable with Planet Drum in the 1990s as well as on Harts Mystery Box album. Olatunjis resume also includes collaborations with Carlos Santana and Stevie Wonder.

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