44 Facts About Charlie Parker


Charlie Parker was an extremely brilliant virtuoso and introduced revolutionary rhythmic and harmonic ideas into jazz, including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions.


Primarily a player of the alto saxophone, Charlie Parker's tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber.


Charlie Parker acquired the nickname "Yardbird" early in his career on the road with Jay McShann.


Charlie Parker was 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.


Charlie Parker attended Lincoln High School in September 1934, but withdrew in December 1935, just before joining the local musicians' union and choosing to pursue his musical career full-time.


Charlie Parker began playing the saxophone at age 11, and at age 14 he joined his high school band where he studied under bandmaster Alonzo Lewis.


Charlie Parker's mother purchased a new alto saxophone around the same time.

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Charlie Parker's biggest influence at that time was a young trombone player named Robert Simpson, who taught him the basics of improvisation.


Charlie Parker played with local bands in jazz clubs around Kansas City, Missouri, where he perfected his technique, with the assistance of Buster Smith, whose dynamic transitions to double and triple time influenced Parker's developing style.


In late spring 1936, Charlie Parker played at a jam session at the Reno Club in Kansas City.


Rather than becoming discouraged, Charlie Parker vowed to practice harder; the incident was a seminal moment in his career and he returned as a new man a year later.


Charlie Parker proposed to Rebecca Ruffin the same year and the two were married on July 25,1936.


Along the way, the caravan of musicians had a car accident and Charlie Parker broke three ribs and fractured his spine.


Charlie Parker struggled with drug use for the rest of his life.


In 1939 Charlie Parker moved to New York City, to pursue a career in music.


Charlie Parker worked for nine dollars a week as a dishwasher at Jimmie's Chicken Shack, where pianist Art Tatum performed.


Charlie Parker played Fairyland Park in the summer with McShann's band at 75th and Prospect for all-white audiences.


In 1942 Charlie Parker left McShann's band and played for one year with Earl Hines, whose band included Dizzy Gillespie, who later played with Charlie Parker as a duo.


Charlie Parker joined a group of young musicians, and played in after-hours clubs in Harlem, such as Clark Monroe's Uptown House.


One night in 1939, Charlie Parker was playing "Cherokee" in a practice session with guitarist William "Biddy" Fleet when he hit upon a method for developing his solos that enabled one of his main musical innovations.


Charlie Parker realized that the 12 semitones of the chromatic scale can lead melodically to any key, breaking some of the confines of simpler jazz soloing.


On November 26,1945, Charlie Parker led a record date for the Savoy label, marketed as the "greatest Jazz session ever".


In December 1945, the Charlie Parker band traveled to an unsuccessful engagement at Billy Berg's club in Los Angeles.


Charlie Parker experienced great hardship in California, and was briefly jailed after setting the bed sheets of his Los Angeles hotel room on fire and then running naked through the lobby while intoxicated, after which he was committed to the Camarillo State Mental Hospital for six months.


When Charlie Parker received his discharge from the hospital, he was clean and healthy.

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Charlie Parker was a keen student of classical music, and contemporaries reported he was most interested in the music and formal innovations of Igor Stravinsky and longed to engage in a project akin to what later became known as Third Stream, a new kind of music, incorporating both jazz and classical elements as opposed to merely incorporating a string section into performance of jazz standards.


In 1953, Charlie Parker performed at Massey Hall in Toronto, joined by Gillespie, Mingus, Powell and Roach.


Charlie Parker died on March 12,1955, in the suite of his friend and patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter at the Stanhope Hotel in New York City, while watching The Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show on television.


The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer, but Charlie Parker had an advanced case of cirrhosis and had suffered a heart attack.


Since 1950, Charlie Parker had been living in New York City with his common-law wife, Chan Berg, the mother of his son, Baird and his daughter Pree.


Charlie Parker considered Chan his wife, although he never married her, nor did he divorce his previous wife, Doris, whom he had married in 1948.


Charlie Parker's body was flown back to Missouri, in accordance with his mother's wishes.


Berg criticized Doris and Charlie Parker's family for giving him a Christian funeral, even though they knew he was a confirmed atheist.


Charlie Parker was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Missouri, in a hamlet known as Blue Summit, located close to I-435 and East Truman Road.


Charlie Parker's tomb was engraved with the image of a tenor saxophone, though Parker is primarily associated with the alto saxophone.


Later, some people wanted to move Charlie Parker's remains to reinforce redevelopment of the historic 18th and Vine area.


Charlie Parker's life was riddled with mental health problems and an addiction to heroin.


Nevertheless, Charlie Parker hated the recording and never forgave Ross Russell for releasing it.


Charlie Parker's life took a turn for the worse in March 1954 when his three-year-old daughter Pree died of cystic fibrosis and pneumonia.


Charlie Parker attempted suicide twice in 1954, which landed him in a mental hospital.


Charlie Parker contributed greatly to the modern jazz solo, one in which triplets and pick-up notes were used in unorthodox ways to lead into chord tones, affording the soloist more freedom to use passing tones, which soloists previously avoided.


Charlie Parker was admired for his unique style of phrasing and innovative use of rhythm.


Recordings of Charlie Parker were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance".


From 1950 to 1954, Charlie Parker lived with Chan Berg on the ground floor of the townhouse at 151 Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park on Manhattan's Lower East Side.