Happy birthday, Oscar!

Canada Post, Diana Krall help mark Oscar Peterson’s 80th birthday
For the first time ever, a living Canadian has been honoured with a postage stamp. On Monday hundreds of fans crowded into a downtown Toronto music store to see Canada Post formally unveil its new Oscar Peterson stamp. They also saw Diana Krall and husband Elvis Costello offer their own tribute to Peterson.
It was a special 80th birthday tribute to Canada’s legendary jazz pianist. Peterson said he always considered himself proud to be a Canadian, “But to have the honour of this stamp issued in my likeness goes beyond my wildest dreams.”
Diana Krall told how, as a teenager, she had first seen Peterson performing with Ella Fitzgerald and how it had changed her life. Krall performed a Peterson instrumental with lyrics penned specially by Costello, then led the crowd in a jazzy rendition of Happy Birthday.
After the cake cutting, Peterson surprised everyone by playing a number he wrote entitled Requiem, which he called a tribute to the many jazz artists who have died in recent years.
The 50-cent stamp, a large version of which was presented to Peterson, bears a sepia-coloured photo of the smiling musician with a keyboard motif behind him. He said he didn’t have much room left on his wall for awards, but would definitely find room for this one.
Four million of the stamps and 500,000 souvenir sheets have been printed and went on sale immediately. After a 50-year career in music, Peterson is regarded as one of the world’s greatest jazz pianists.
He first learned music from his father, a West Indian immigrant who worked at CN Rail as a porter. Early breaks came when he won a CBC Radio amateur contest, followed by appearances on the Happy Gang variety show.
Peterson was discovered performing in a Montreal club in the 1940s, played Carnegie Hall in 1949 and has performed with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington. He’s recorded more than 300 albums. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1984, has two Juno Awards and seven Grammys — including the 1997 Lifetime Achievement Award — as well as several honorary doctorates from educational institutions in both Canada and the United States.