Canada’s Newest Coin Honors Oscar Peterson | CBC News

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Montreal jazz pianist and musician Oscar Peterson is being honored with a commemorative coin, released today.

Peterson, who died in 2007, was one of Canada’s most decorated musicians and is remembered as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time.

The Royal Canadian Mint is issuing the $1 commemorative circulation coin to honor Peterson’s “extraordinary talent and enduring musical legacy,” it said in a statement.

“The whole city will finally realize that yes, we had the best pianist in the world living here in this country. And I’m very, very proud that he was my friend,” said Oliver Jones, a close collaborator. dude.

Raised in the Saint-Henri neighborhood of Montreal, Peterson began playing for the predominantly immigrant and black communities in the south of the city. Although Peterson rose to international fame in the span of a few years, he always maintained a connection to local talent and Canadian art.

Oscar Peterson was born in Montreal in 1925. He became a world-renowned musician and composer, winning Grammy, Junos, and other national and international honors. (Herman Leonard/Herman Leonard Photography LLC)

The coin shows Peterson playing the piano and the musical notes corresponding to his 1962 composition. hymn to freedom, which became an anthem for the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

There is also a $20 silver coin that is available through the Mint.

Achievement beyond belief

Jones says that putting an image of Peterson on a coin goes beyond what the two imagined for themselves.

“Our parents would never believe what we’ve accomplished. And what a wonderful feeling to see him honored in this way.” Jones said.

Oliver Jones was a close friend and musical collaborator of Peterson’s. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

Peterson passed away in 2007 after a career spanning more than 60 years. He is remembered as a technical genius of jazz, deserving of his place among the greats.

“As a musician, I don’t think we have another person who has the impact of playing, who represents an entire country. When we talk about Oscar Peterson, we’re talking about the best jazz pianist in the world.” Jones said.

Recognizing Peterson’s Legacy

The Royal Canadian Mint says this commemoration means celebrating a more complete history of Canada.

“Our first intention was really to celebrate the tremendous musical and cultural legacy of Oscar Peterson. But it’s a welcome addition that we’re celebrating a tremendous history of achievement for Canada’s black community.” said Alex Reeves, a spokesman for the mint.

Kelly Peterson, widow of Oscar Peterson, at the unveiling of the new commemorative coin. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

In 2020, a petition to rename Lionel-Groulx in Peterson’s honor had over 25,000 signatures. In 2021, the city announced that it would create a public square named after the musician as part of the renovation of McGill College Avenue.

The coin takes Peterson’s commemoration one step further by declaring his importance on the national stage, making him both the first black Canadian and the first performing artist on a circulating coin.

“Oscar Peterson is one of the Canadians,” said Reeves, “his legacy continues and transcends generations.”

The coin will start circulating next Monday, August 15, which would have been Peterson’s 97th birthday.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians, from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community, check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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