By Rachel Yang
February 11, 2021 at 07:33 PM EST
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Chick Corea, the acclaimed jazz pianist and 23-time Grammy winner, died Tuesday from a rare form of cancer. He was 79.

Corea's death was announced on his website, which also noted that the musician had only "very recently" discovered the cancer.

"Throughout his life and career, Chick relished in the freedom and the fun to be had in creating something new, and in playing the games that artists do," a statement on his website said. "He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather, and a great mentor and friend to so many. Through his body of work and the decades he spent touring the world, he touched and inspired the lives of millions."

Credit: Selin Alemdar/Redferns via Getty Images

The website also shared a message Corea left for his fans: "I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It's not only that the world needs more artists, it's also just a lot of fun."

Fellow musicians like drummer Sheila E. paid their respects to Corea on social media.

"This man changed my life thru his music and we were able to play together many times," she tweeted. "I was very fortunate to call him my family. Chick, you are missed dearly, your music and brilliant light will live on forever."

In 1968, Corea replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis' group and played electric piano on fusion albums such as In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, which helped usher in the fusion era. He also recorded with other jazz masters such as Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Mongo Santamaria, and Sarah Vaughan. His first two albums as bandleader, 1968's Tones for Joan's Bones and Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, are considered classics.

Corea was also known for his band Return to Forever, which he helped found in 1971. One of the most popular instrumental collectives of its time, the group wove Brazilian, Spanish, and other influences into a fusion sound.

With nearly two dozen wins (and 67 nominations), Corea is the artist with the most jazz Grammys in the awards' history. He could posthumously win more at the March 14 ceremony, where he's nominated for best Improvised Jazz Solo, for "All Blues," and Best Jazz Instrumental Album, for Trilogy 2. Corea was also named a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master in 2006.

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