Charlie Parker was one of the outstanding jazz musicians, who brought the unique rhythms and performance into the world of jazz. However, his uniqueness caused him many troubles as he was a heroin addict and mentally ill. Events that led to the addiction, his place of origin, and details of his personality attempt to explain how he became such a significant influence.
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He lived less than thirty-five years but managed to alter the course of jazz music and become one of the most influencing characters in the musical industry. A Grammy-award winning saxophonist created a new style of jazz called bebop, which can be characterized by instrumental diversity, fast tempo, and complex chord changes. He had his unique style that not a single person could repeat; his leading influencers were Count Basie and Bennie Moten, as Parker respected and preferred their technique.
One of the points that greatly influenced Parker and left a mark in his life was a heroin addiction that he had to deal with in adulthood. An accident on the road that occurred in 1936 and threatened his life is being suggested as one of the reasons that led to drug addiction.
He started using morphine regularly after the accident and then moved on to heroin. There are many cases of addiction among musicians who had a significant impact on jazz music; however, their music was not defined by the addiction. Parker was spending hours practicing every day, and his temper was one of the causes of his success. That is the reason his life was a challenge for any bibliographer, according to DeVeaux, as he was a “revolutionary creative artist, but also a scoundrel” (89).
Moreover, Charlie Parker had a mental illness, which influenced his appearance on the stage. Mental illness can be a primary reason for what caused him the reputation of a rebel. Lonergan investigates how a creative mind is connected to the mental issues and states that such people had a mood disturbance during a certain period in their lives (4). It also means that creative people have to resist the forces that shut the creativity down, which could explain Parker’s behavior.
It is fair to notice the influence of the time and generation the musician experiences, as the ability to discover a talent in the supporting environment can be vital. He was growing up during the development of the Harlem Renaissance in Kansas. Once Charlie grew up, he was able to move to New York and play in Savoy Ballroom, which was the most popular place for music dancing, located in New York City. He was surrounded by jazz musicians that were creating history, which gave him a space to discover his talent and develop it.
For musicians, an instrument can determine their future as it becomes an integral part of their personality. Selecting the correct instrument is crucial, and the choice for Parker was made by his mother when he was a teenager. His mother gave a saxophone to Charlie as a gift to cheer him up after a father has abandoned the family, and sax has been his instrument of choice since then.
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Even though Charlie Parker had a mental illness and drug addiction, he managed to create a new style in jazz and become one of the greatest influencers of the Harlem Renaissance. However, it remains unclear whether such circumstances are what crafted him as a unique musician. His distinctive style and approach to music remains an integral part of jazz and still causes inquiries for bibliographers.
Lonergan, Ross. “Was Charlie Parker Following His Bliss?” Life As Human. 2014. Web.
DeVeaux, Scott. “Bird: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker.” Journal of the Society for American Music. 2018. Web.