Joe Sample, Jazz Pioneer, Dies of Mesothelioma

Reading Time: 4 mins
Publication Date: 09/20/2014
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


"My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family."
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating

How to Cite’s Article


Fusco, K. (2020, October 16). Joe Sample, Jazz Pioneer, Dies of Mesothelioma. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from


Fusco, Kaitlyn. "Joe Sample, Jazz Pioneer, Dies of Mesothelioma.", 16 Oct 2020,


Fusco, Kaitlyn. "Joe Sample, Jazz Pioneer, Dies of Mesothelioma." Last modified October 16, 2020.

Joe Sample, a musician who became a household name by pushing the limits of jazz music, died of mesothelioma on Sept. 12 in his hometown of Houston. He was 75.

The legendary keyboard player and composer is known as the founder of the Jazz Crusaders, a bebop ensemble that originated in his high school days. The group later dropped “Jazz” from its name and became known as The Crusaders — a band with a distinctive, amalgamated jazz, funk, blues and soul sound.

Although his family confirmed he died of mesothelioma, news reports do not explain how he developed the asbestos-related cancer that affects nearly 3,000 people a year in the U.S.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive disease that can affect the lungs, heart or abdomen. It is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, which is a naturally-occurring mineral that was commonly used prior to the 1980s in insulation products in homes and public buildings.

The asbestos-related cancer has an unfavorable prognosis with an average life expectancy of nine to 24 months. It can take anywhere from 15 to 50 years after exposure before the symptoms become obvious and a diagnosis is made.

Reports also show Sample had suffered other serious health problems, including two heart attacks and bouts of fatigue caused by Epstein-Barr virus.

Sample’s Contribution to the Black Community and Jazz

The Crusaders’ name change signaled a new musical direction for the group and the introduction of electronic instruments into the jazz scene, including Sample’s keyboard.

The group was one the first to fuse many different sounds that once were separate genres.

Sample was a creative genius with no limits. For him, plugging in and making musical history wasn’t intimidating. His ear for catchy riffs and a true passion for making great, honest music, despite cultural norms, landed him opportunities to collaborate with classic performers, including Miles Davis, B. B. King, Eric Clapton, George Benson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Steely Dan and The Supremes.

Sample’s music was often inspired by the world and people around him.

“In the Sixties, we had emotion, passion and feeling in our music and I wrote a composition to support the sit-inners and marchers in the civil rights struggle,” Sample said during a 2012 interview with Jazz Times in 2012.

After the demise of The Crusaders in the late 1980s, Sample launched a career as a solo artist, releasing his “Ashes to Ashes” album, which focused on the struggles of blacks at the time and their efforts to save their communities.

As a composer, Sample wrote many successful songs, including “Street Life” and “One Day I’ll Fly Away,” which Nicole Kidman covered in the film “Moulin Rouge.”

Sample is survived by wife Yolanda; son Nicklas, a bassist who performed with him in the Creole Joe Band; sister Julia Goolsby; three stepsons, Justin, Jamerson III and Jordan Berry; and six grandchildren.

Other Celebrities Who Died of Mesothelioma

Although mesothelioma is usually associated with those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces or those who worked in blue-collar professions, like steel mills or shipyards, the disease continues to affect countless others outside those careers.

Over the past several years, the asbestos-related cancer has claimed the lives of many celebrities, including entertainers, government officials and even an Olympic gold medalist.

Prior to Samples’ death, actor Ed Lauter died of mesothelioma in October 2013. His wife is now suing several American conglomerate giants, including CBS Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Georgia-Pacific LLC and John CraneGarlock, EnPro Reach $480M Settlement for Asbestos Claims Inc., among others.

Lauter was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2013.

Actor Steve McQueen, football player and actor Merlin Olsen, and musician and songwriter Warren Zevon also died of mesothelioma.

Free Mesothelioma Resources
Get Access to Free Resources for Patients & Loved Ones