I’m saddened to hear of the death of keyboard legend Chick Corea at the age of 79.

I hadn’t even heard of him until I went away to college in 1975 and started working at the campus radio station, WUSB. It was there that my ears were opened to all sorts of music, including the nascent jazz-rock fusion that Corea was among the first to popularize. He formed a group called Return To Forever with sax/flute player Joe Farrell, bassist Stanley Clarke, percussionist Airto Moreira, and vocalist Flora Purim.

Their second album, “Light As A Feather,” caught my attention in the WUSB music library, and I liked it enough to buy it (for $2.99, I recall) at Scoop, the student union’s record store. I took the vinyl back to my dorm room and listened to it over and over, amazed at the confluence of sounds these five people created together.

It was through Corea that I learned about other artists, including Herbie Hancock, who (like Corea) had played piano in Miles Davis’ band, then dove into the jazz fusion pool with his own group, The Headhunters. From there, I was on to Weather Report, Jean-Luc Ponty, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham, Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Chuck Mangione, and Spyro Gyra.

I was fortunate enough to see many of those performers in concert, but not Corea. I missed him when he reunited with some of his fellow RTF bandmates and played The Fox in St. Louis in 2008, but my friend Bob Russell told me the show was incredible.

I still have a bunch of albums from many of those artists in both my vinyl and digital collections, and just listened to “Light As A Feather” again a couple of weeks ago. Though I hadn’t heard it in a long time, I remembered each of the songs, drifting back mentally to when I first heard them as a teenager.

For those memories, and all the musical inspiration that followed, I thank you fondly, Chick.