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Celebrating Bird

Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Celebrating Bird
    Book Description:

    Within days of Charlie "Bird" Parker's death at the age of thirty-four, a scrawled legend began appearing on walls around New York City: Bird Lives. Gone was one of the most outstanding jazz musicians of any era, the troubled genius who brought modernism to jazz and became a defining cultural force for musicians, writers, and artists of every stripe. Arguably the most significant musician in the country at the time of his death, Parker set the standard many musicians strove to reach-though he never enjoyed the same popular success that greeted many of his imitators. Today, the power of Parker's inventions resonates undiminished; and his influence continues to expand. Celebrating Bird is the groundbreaking and award-winning account of the life and legend of Charlie Parker from renowned biographer and critic Gary Giddins, whom Esquire called "the best jazz writer in America today." Richly illustrated and drawing primarily from original sources, Giddins overturns many of the myths that have grown up around Parker. He cuts a fascinating portrait of the period, from Parker's apprentice days in the 1930s in his hometown of Kansas City to the often difficult years playing clubs in New York and Los Angeles, and reveals how Parker came to embody not only musical innovation and brilliance but the rage and exhilaration of an entire generation. Fully revised and with a new introduction by the author, Celebrating Bird is a classic of jazz writing that the Village Voice heralded as "a celebration of the highest order"-a portrayal of a jazz virtuoso whose gargantuan talent was haunted by his excesses and a view into the ravishing art of one of jazz's most commanding and remarkable figures.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4078-6
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvii)
    G. G.
  4. 1. BIRD LIVES!
    (pp. 1-17)

    MYTHOLOGIES DIE HARD. The witness to Charlie Parker’s death heard a clap of thunder at the moment of his passing. The companion of his last years remains in spiritual contact with him after more than thirty years. His childhood sweetheart and first wife continues to hear his music as nothing more or less than the “story of our lives together,” though all his recorded music and innovations postdated their relationship. Countless musicians tell their own stories in terms of Parker’s influence on them, as if they had been dawdling contentedly down one path until they heard his call and abruptly...

  5. 2. YOUTH
    (pp. 19-53)

    CHARLES PARKER JR. was born August 29, 1920, in Kansas City, Kansas, during a bitterly contested presidential election. In previous weeks, Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio had emerged as the compromise candidate for the Republicans, with Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts filling out the ticket. The New York Times, in an extraordinary front-page editorial, accused the convention of “cowardice and imbecility” and argued “we must go back to Franklin Pierce if we would seek a President who measures down to [Harding’s] political stature.” The Democrats settled on Ohio’s Governor James Cox and Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt....

    (pp. 55-85)

    WHEN CHARLIE LANDED in Chicago, most likely in the fall of 1938, before the bitter winds—the Chicago hawk—hit, he was as thin as the rails that brought him and not much better for wear. Bedraggled and exhausted, he nonetheless made his way in the early morning hours to the 65 Club, near Michigan Avenue and Fifty-fifth Street, where a breakfast dance was in progress. The featured band, a quintet led by King Kolax, took a break, and a few of the guys were on the street smoking with friends, including Billy Eckstine and Budd Johnson. Charlie, “the raggedest...

  7. 4. MASTERY
    (pp. 87-109)

    THE SECOND WORLD WAR severely altered the texture and tempo of American life, and jazz reflected those changes more acutely and thoroughly than the other arts, with the arguable exception of painting. Popular music gave way to canned patriotism, sentimental bromides, and silly novelties. Hollywood divided its soul between the benedictions of Bing Crosby as a priest and crime stories (later called noir) of festering corruption. Broadway looked backward even when it was serious (The Glass Menagerie, The Skin of Our Teeth), though it preferred outright nostalgia (I Remember Mama, Life with Father). A popular appetite for poetry was requited...

  8. 5. BIRD LIVES
    (pp. 111-146)

    THE RESTORED, REVITALIZED Charlie Parker of 1947 is the illustrious Bird, the fabled Bird of a thousand acquaintances, numberless funny and harrowing anecdotes, and a profusion of masterpieces. The period of his ascension dates from his quietly triumphant return to New York in April and continues almost until his deliverance eight years later, all of it chronicled in passionate, contradictory, and wistful testimony. Like loosely assembled fragments of a shattered mirror, they reflect a shimmering, deceptive mosaic. The image looms elusively, assuming a different temper in each ray of light. Even the photographs indicate a magic show. His weight billows...

    (pp. 147-150)
    (pp. 151-169)
    (pp. 171-176)
    (pp. 177-180)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 181-196)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-197)