Biography: A talented jazz saxophonist and composer Charlie “Bird” Parker was influential in the development of the bebop subgenre – a style with faster tempos and improvisation based on harmonic structure.
Techniques like rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords and chord substitutions that Bird innovated are now standard learning for jazz students all over the world. His tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber.
In the 1930s and ‘40s the jazz scene was closely associated with drug abuse. After a car crash in his teens, Bird had become addicted to morphine in the hospital and after his release, heroin.
This addiction contributed to his financial troubles (often busking for drug money) and erratic behavior throughout his career, including a stay in a Californian mental hospital.
Bird was an artistic icon to the 1940s hipster subculture and later to the beat generation, personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual rather than just an entertainer. Today he is remembered as a tremendous innovator and virtuoso player.
His famous tracks “Billie’s Bounce”, Anthropology”, “Ornithology” and “Confirmation” are now standards in most jazz musicians’ repertoires.
Born: 29 August 1920
Birthplace: Kansas City, Kansas, USA
Star Sign: Virgo
Died: 12 March 1955 (aged 34)
Cause of Death: Lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer