Herbert Horatio Nichols (3 January 1919 – 12 April 1963) was an American jazz pianist and composer who wrote the jazz standard “Lady Sings the Blues“. Obscure during his lifetime, he is now highly regarded by many musicians and critics.
He was born in San Juan Hill, Manhattan in New York City, to parents from St. Kitts and Trinidad, and grew up in Harlem. During much of his life he took work as a Dixieland musician while working on the more adventurous kind of jazz he preferred. He is best known today for these compositions, program music that combines bop, Dixieland, and music from the Caribbean with harmonies from Erik Satie and Béla Bartók.
His first known work as a musician was with the Royal Barons in 1937, but he did not find performing at Minton’s Playhouse a few years later a very happy experience. The competition didn’t suit him. However, he did become friends with pianist Thelonious Monk even if his own critical neglect would be more enduring.