Happy Birthday, Charlie Parker! I borrow the following from Garrison Keillor:
It's the birthday of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, born in Kansas City, Kansas (1920). He is considered one of the half-dozen greatest jazz musicians, right up there with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Early in his career, he received the nickname of "Yardbird," and he became known as "Bird."
Before Parker, jazz meant swing, melodies played at dance tempos by musicians in big orchestras who never got to take solos for very long. Late at night, after their big band jobs were over, Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and other black musicians kept on playing, improvising long lines at blazing speed. Parker used a lot of flatted fifths, and jazz players used the word "bebop" to sing a flatted fifth, but Parker didn't like to use the word for the way he played. "Let's not call it bebop," he said. "Let's just call it music."
As a teenager, Parker became addicted to morphine while hospitalized after a car accident. He later became addicted to heroin, which contributed to his death at 34. The official cause was listed as pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer. The coroner made a mistake in estimating Parker's age to be between 50 and 60.
Parker said, "I realized by using the high notes of the chords as a melodic line, and by the right harmonic progression, I could play what I heard inside me. That's when I was born."