Bird Lives!: The High Life And Hard Times Of Charlie (Yardbird) Parker is the vivid biography of a musical genius and a symbol of an age. He was the very embodiment of jazz. Charles Parker was born in 1920 in Kansas City, where a new kind of American music was brewing in the honky-tonks and would seep across the nation a decade later. No man did more to excite and direct that outpouring of endlessly inventive sound than Charlie "Yardbird" Parker. His range, virtuosity, and originality with a saxophone (and his driven, self-consuming lifestyle) made him a luminous cult hero and a kinetic force in the history of jazz. With Dizzy Gillespie he led the bebop insurrection which would supplant the big bands, until Parker's influence outstripped even Louis Armstrong's. Beyond that, he was the first angry black man in music: the futility of the blows he directed at the white establishment did much to feed his heroin and alcohol dependencies and to accelerate a seemingly compulsive rush toward self-destruction. Parker was a man of vast appetites to match his gifts, and Ross Russell relates the offstage antics which were marked by chronic overindulgence and defiance: throwing his saxophone out of a hotel window, walking into the ocean wearing a new suit, standing up the promoter of a Paris jazz concert, drinking sixteen double whiskies in two hours, eating twenty hamburgers at a sitting, riding a policeman's horse into a prominent Manhattan tavern, and accommodating the steady stream of women who threw themselves at him. Parker mastered his craft while a teenager, became a legend in his twenties, and burned himself out at the age of 34. Birdland became the most popular jazz lounge of its time, a tribute to Parker's importance. Bird Lives! is a magnificent biographical tribute, a profound landmark in music literature, and an incisive study of towering talent in a segregated world. -- Midwest Book Review
About the Author
Ross Russell is the author of The Sound, a novel of the jazz world, and Jazz Style in Kansas City and the Southwest. In 1946 he formed Dial Records, heading the company for a decade, during which he released records by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis.