He grew up in the nearby small town of Fulton, New York, where his grandmother and then his aunt were the church organists. Opera was also a presence in the Murphy home. He started piano lessons at the age of seven. Murphy joined his brother's jazz dance band as the singer when a teenager, citing influences from Nat "King" Cole, June Christy, Anita O'Day, and Ella Fitzgerald. The Jazz pianist Art Tatum was also an influence. Murphy graduated from Syracuse University in 1953, majoring in Music and Drama.
University life included performing on campus and also in a club – playing piano and singing. In 1954, Murphy moved to New York City, working part-time as an actor and singer. He appeared in productions for the Gilbert and Sullivan Light Opera Company and a musical version for television of Casey at the Bat. Also, he twice took second place at the Apollo Theatre amateur contests. Murphy was eventually introduced to record producer Milt Gabler, who was an artist and repertoire director (A & R) for Decca. His resulting debut recording was Meet Mark Murphy (1956), followed closely by Let Yourself Go (1957). In 1958 Murphy moved to Los Angeles and recorded for Capitol, but returned to New York in the early '60s and recorded the album Rah! (1961) on Riverside Records, performing "Angel Eyes", a version of Horace Silver's "Doodlin'", and "Green Dolphin Street", featuring Bill Evans, Clark Terry, Urbie Green, Blue Mitchell and Wynton Kelly as accompanists.
His favorite recording to date, That's How I Love the Blues, soon followed. In 1963, Murphy hit the charts across the country with his single of "Fly Me to the Moon" and was voted New Star of the Year in Down Beat Magazine's Reader's Poll. In the late 1960s Murphy moved to London, England, where he worked primarily as an actor. He continued however, to cultivate his jazz audiences in Europe. He returned to the States in 1972 and began recording an average of an album a year for more than fourteen years on the Muse label.
These projects - including the albums Nat King Cole Songbook Vol. I and II, Bop for Kerouac, Kerouac Then And Now, Living Room, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Beauty And the Beast and, Stolen Moments - gained numerous Grammy nominations. This last album contains Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" with lyrics by Murphy. In 1984 together with Viva Brasil he recorded the album Brazil Song (Cancões do Brasil), which featured original material written by Brazilian songwriters including work by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Milton Nascimento. In 1987, Murphy recorded Night Mood, an album of songs by Brazilian composer Ivan Lins, followed by the Grammy-nominated September Ballads on Milestone Records. Murphy has also appeared on U.F.O.'s last two releases (for Polydor Records), in which he wrote and rapped lyrics on songs composed with the group. This collaboration opened up further new audiences in the acid-jazz and hip-hop genres, demonstrating jazz's timelessness while transcending generations and styles. In August 1997, BMG/RCA Victor released Song For The Geese, for which he has received his sixth Grammy nomination.
Also in August 1997, the 32 Records label Joel Dorn and Michael Bourne released a double CD anthology Stolen and Other Moments, which features some of his recordings for the now defunct Muse label. The CD features material from the two "Kerouac" albums and a selection of "the best of Mark Murphy". Murphy’s release Once to Every Heart (2005), on the Verve label, features sensuous ballads, where the listener can capture him singing in top form, with superb musicians and sounding better than ever. In 2007 Love is What Stays was released on Verve. Both albums were produced by German trumpeter Till Brönner. Murphy has also collaborated with Five Corners Quintet, a modern Finnish jazz band.
He appears on their albums Chasin' the Jazz Gone By (2005) and Hot Corner (2008). In 2010 he released the independently produced CD, Never Let Me Go, on which he is supported by pianist Misha Piatigorsky, bassist Danton Boller and drummer Chris Wabich. A limited edition EP/MP3, "Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn" on Gearbox Records was released in 2013. Murphy continued to tour internationally into his 80s, appearing at festivals, concerts, in jazz clubs and on television programs, throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan, as well as other places. John Bush at AllMusic.com described Murphy as "a major name in vocal jazz." A longtime resident of the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey, he died there on October 22, 2015. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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