Dorothy Ashby

Harpist / Jazz Musician
Date Of Birth:
6 August 1932
Date Of Death:
13 April 1986
Place Of Birth:
Detroit, Michigan
Best Known As:
The jazz harpist who recorded 'Afro-Harping' in 1968

Name at birth: Dorothy Jeanne Thompson

Dorothy Ashby wrote and played jazz with a harp, beginning in the 1950s in Detroit.

By the 1970s, she had a solid career in the studio with jazz and pop artists, including Freddie Hubbard, Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder.

Dorothy's jazz roots go back to her father, a self-taught swing guitarist in Detroit. She attended the Cass Technical School with future jazz greats Kenny Burrell and Donald Byrd, and in college switched from playing the piano to playing harp.

She began playing harp professionally in 1952, making the rounds in Detroit nightclubs and recording both as a side musician and as a lead.

Ashby and her husband, musician and TV writer John Ashby, were active in community theater and founded The Ashby Players in the 1960s, while Dorothy continued to record, including releasing the albums The Jazz Harpist (1957), The Fantastic Jazz Harp of Dorothy Ashby (1965), Afro-Harping (1968) and The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby (1970).

The Ashbys relocated to Santa Monica, California in 1972 and Dorothy had a good career in the studio, playing on a wide variety of jazz and pop recordings, most notably on Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life (1976).

She died of cancer at the age of 53, in 1986.

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