A jazz musician, Charlie Parker was famous for his saxaphone playing. He was a leader in the “bop” or bebop style of jazz that was all the rage in the 1940′s. Charlie Parker was born in 1920, died 1955 – at the age of 34.
Charlie, also known as Yardbird, sometimes known as Bird was one of the post-war jazz artistes who were addicted to heroin. He nevertheless transformed the face of jazz with bebop that was the beginning of modern jazz.
It would be too easy for a young person who has maybe some talent as a musician to think that he (or she) might improve their style by doing drugs such as heroin. The facts of the life of Charlie Parker show quite clearly that Charlie had a talent for jazz – for composition, improvisation, for playing that was totally spoiled by his addiction to heroin.
The original cause of Bird’s addiction to opiates is said to be that he was given morphine after injury in a car accident, that led to a lifelong addiction. Certainly, young people in the 1940.s, when seeing successful entertainers such as Charlie Parker were influenced in their decision making – that it was “hip” to do heroin.
For all his skill and innovation, the reality was that Charlie’s friends often had to wait around for hours – while Charlie took his heroin, went on the “nod” – eventually “coming good” to put on a brilliant, if not somewhat erratic performance.
This compares with Charlie in the 1930′s, being said to have practiced his music, for several years – for around 15 hours per day.
In 1945, Charlie went to California, and lacking his usual supply of heroin, got into heavy alcohol abuse instead. The story goes that Charlie was drunk, set fire to his hotel room, and went running naked down the street, after which he was placed for six months into the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. Although the treatment received is said to have got him “clean” of drugs – Charlie then returned to New York and got straight back into heroin use.
Although Charlie Parker was a legend in terms of his musical capabilities, as a result of his heroin use, he was often refused further work due to not turning up for performances, that might be a result of his heroin use, or him being out searching for heroin when a performance was due. At the height of his addiction, Charlie lived on the support and charity of friends.
When Charlie finally died, in 1955, the pathologist thought that he was examining the body of a 50 to 60 year old man - Charlie was in fact only thirty four years old when he died. Although pneumonia and a heart attack were relevant causes – Charlie also suffered from cirrhosis of the liver.
The life of Charlie Parker might be compared with that of Miles Davies.
Miles, originally a bebop student with Charlie Parker, became, like so many jazz performers of the 1940′s, addicted to heroin. Miles eventually broke away from the bebop movement and was a leader in the development of jazz .
Miles used heroin for about four years before he decided to go cold turkey, and give it up, as he could see the damage that heroin use was doing to his life. Although Miles lived the “driven” life of a reformed, but not fully recovered drug user, he survived, and was able to make a great contribution to the development of jazz.
While Charlie undeniably had more talent, his work was plagued with and eventually sacrificed to the heroin addiction, that finally took his life.
People often wonder about the apparent connection as between creative genius, in any field, and substance abuse and addiction.
A most insightful article that is the text of a Playboy panel discussion about “Narcotics Addiction and the Jazz Musician” makes it very clear that drug addiction is not limited to jazz professionals, nor is it to be regarded as an “occupational hazard”.
The Playboy article comes out firmly in support of a viewpoint that drug addiction is the result of problems with a person’s background, his upbringing, more than his occupation.
The article also makes it clear that people who are drug addicted lack the precision and the co-ordination to deliver excellence in the performance of music.
Although a person might deliver, under the influence of drugs, a performance that is inspired, it depends very much on the individual as to whether their inate talent gets them home, or whether they simply end up with a performance that lacks any merit.
Substance abuse and addiction is ultimately a personal problem. Drug use is not a disease. Ask any drug user and you will find – they use drugs to resolve the emotional issues and difficulties that they have in life.
Complete addiction recovery is not about giving up drugs. it is about getting effective, comprehensive support to resolve our lifestyle problems – that will enable us to give up drug use – and lead an addiction free life.
When you need to get off drugs - Narconon can help.