On This Day

Charlie "Bird" Parker

Jazz Saxophonist and Composer Charlie "Bird" Parker

Full Name: Charles Parker, Jr.
Profession: Jazz Saxophonist and Composer

United States of America

Why Famous: A highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop. He introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions. His tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber.

An icon for the hipster subculture and later the Beat Generation, personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual rather than just an entertainer.

Born: August 29, 1920
Birthplace: Kansas City, Kansas, USA

Generation: Greatest Generation
Chinese Zodiac: Monkey
Star Sign: Virgo

Died: March 12, 1955 (aged 34)
Cause of Death: Lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer

Biography: Charlie "Bird" Parker (1920-1955) was a talented jazz saxophonist and composer influential in the development of the bebop subgenre – a style with faster tempos and improvisation based on harmonic structure. Techniques that Bird innovated are now standard learning for jazz students all over the world.

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 behaviour 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, 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. (OnThisDay.com)

Historical Events

  • 1945-11-26 Charlie "Bird" Parker leads recording session for the Savoy label marketed as the "greatest Jazz session ever" with Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis