Singer, songwriter and playwright Oscar Brown Jr. died May 29 in Chicago after a brief illness. He was 78.

“Although we will miss him deeply, he has left a wealth of works that will continue to touch the world,” his daughter, Maggie Brown, said.

Oscar Brown Jr. is known for his compositions “The Snake” and “Signifyin’ Monkey” and his lyrics for Miles Davis’ “All Blues.” Early in his career, Brown shared the bill with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane. More recently, Brown was a regular on Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam.

Brown was active in the civil rights movement, independent politics, and gang intervention work with neighborhood youth. He recently established The Oscar Brown Jr. H.I.P. (Human Improvement Potential) Legacy Foundation to continue his efforts to help young people.

Screenings are planned nationwide for a newly completed documentary about Brown’s life. Information on many planned tributes will be available on his web site: Condolences to the Brown family can be sent by e-mail to: