Fred Hopkins (October 11, 1947 – January 7, 1999)
Hopkins was born in Chicago, and grew up in a musical family, listening to a wide variety of music
from an early age. He attended DuSable High School, where he studied music under "Captain"
Walter Dyett, who became well-known for mentoring and training musicians. He was originally
inspired to learn the cello after seeing a performance by Pablo Casals on television, but was told by
Dyett that because the school didn't have a cello, he would have to play bass. After graduating
from high school, he worked at a grocery store, but was encouraged by Dyett and other friends to
pursue music more seriously. He soon began playing with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, where he
was the first recipient of the Charles Clark Memorial Scholarship, and studying with Joseph
Gustafeste, principal bassist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the time, as well as picking
up piano duo gigs. In the mid-1960s, Hopkins attended a concert by AACM members at Hyde Park
and was intrigued. He also began playing with Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, with whom he
would make his first recording in 1970 (Forces and Feelings), and started becoming more serious
about improvisation, playing with Muhal Richard Abrams's Experimental Band and other related
groups. Hopkins stated that a major inspiration at that time was hearing John Coltrane's
Coltrane's Sound: "it really changed my whole outlook on music. I knew then that I could do anything I
wanted to do... And from that point on, I just got more involved, and started meeting more people
over the years."
In the early 1970s, he formed a trio called Reflection with saxophonist Henry Threadgill and
drummer Steve McCall. In 1975, he, like many other Chicago free-jazz musicians, left and moved
to New York, where he soon regrouped with Threadgill and McCall, who also moved there at
around the same time. They renamed their trio Air, and went on to tour and record extensively.
He also joined the AACM, immersed himself in New York's loft scene, and, over the following
decades, increasingly gained recognition, gigging with Roy Haynes and performing and recording
with artists such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Hamiet Bluiett, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Arthur
Blythe, Oliver Lake, David Murray, Diedre Murray, and Don Pullen, as well as with various groups led
In 1997, he moved back to Chicago, stating that he "got tired of the stress" of living in New York,
and reuniting with "ten brothers and sisters and 35 nieces and nephews".  He continued to
perform, tour, and record with a wide variety of musicians. He died in 1999 at age 51 of heart disease
at the University of Chicago Hospital.