Credited as the inventor of the musical style of bebop, Charlie Parker was more than that. His success didn’t stop there. But let’s start at the beginning.
Charlie Parker “Bird” was born on August 29, 1920, in Kansas. Although he didn’t have any musical aspirations at an early age, his father’s musical background, however, was an element of influence for the young Parker. He started playing at the age of 11 and by 14 was an active part of his school band. Playing in clubs around Kansas, Parker worked hard to hone his musical talents.
A move to New York City in 1939 became a turning point in Parker’s life. He held several jobs but all of his free time was devoted to practicing. He soon joined bands that would perform at after-hours clubs in Harlem. During this time he continued his musical learning under the guidance of his teacher, Maury Deutsch. The same year, he discovered the method that eventually led to the development of bebop.
During the early years after its inception, bebop wasn’t fully accepted by the public. Jazz musicians were skeptical and rejected the new style. Once the recording ban lifted in 1945, bebop got the fame it deserved. Fans and jazz musicians were all ready to groove to the music. The music was new but refreshing, and so audiences all over the world were fascinated by the new sound. This accomplishment put Charlie Parker and his band in the spotlight.
While his stint with bebop paid off, Parker wanted to perform with a string section. Being a keen student of classical music, he wanted to experiment with the genre. And hence he worked with Norman Granz to record an album of ballads. In 1949, he made his European debut at the Paris International Jazz Festival.
While Charlie Parker was achieving successes in his professional life, his personal life started to affect his career. Substance abuse and heroin addiction affected his work but many of his works during this time had been labelled as remarkable. His command over his work made his pieces even more magical. Being gregarious and charismatic, Charlie Parker’s complex character didn’t show much. His music had the same nature, complex and thought-provoking.
His works forever changed the performance and writing of jazz music. As the big band era was slowly fading away, Charlie Parker gave the industry something new. It was the bebop that changed the gameplay in the jazz industry and thus highly influential saxophonist who had a penchant for fast and free-styled music.
Charlie Parker’s contributions to the jazz industry are numerous, but we can all agree that he went too soon. His music brought peace and solace to many others, but it had no such effect on him. He died on March 12, 1955, in New York City while he was staying at Stanhope Hotel.
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