Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Charlie Parker

Dr. Bob Prescribes Charlie Parker

The Way He Lived and Played In the parlance of the sports world, Charlie Parker “left it all on the field.” The unstoppable, overwhelming intensity with which he played the saxophone was mirrored in the way he lived his life as well. When he died in the New York City apartment of Baroness Panonnica de Koenigswarter at the Hotel Apartments Stanhope (at Fifth Avenue and 81st Street) on March 12, 1955, he was just 34 years old. Based on Parker’s appearance at the time of his death, the attending physician, Dr. Robert Freymann, estimated his age as being between 55 and 60; the coroner who conducted his autopsy put an age of 53 on his death certificate. Parker’s immediate cause of death was unclear, because after a lifetime (albeit a short lifetime) of living at the very edge, his body had simply given out. His stomach wall was perforated by a peptic ulcer; he was suffering from lobar pneumonia; his cirrhotic liver had stopped functioning; and he suffered a massive heart attack, pretty much all at once. It has been said that Charlie Parker wasn’t so much as dead as he was used up. According to the founder of Dial […]

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Music History Monday: Bird

We mark the birth on August 29, 1920 – 102 years ago today – of the alto saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker. The trumpet player (and one-time member of Charlie Parker’s quintet) Miles Davis (1926-1991) famously said: “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.” Miles Davis never minced words, and he does not mince them here. Along with Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker was (and remains) the most innovative, influential, and technically brilliant jazz musician to have yet lived. However, before moving on to Parker, we have one other piece of date-related musical business. I know, I know: I am most aware that having broached the subject of Charlie Parker, it behooves us – out of awe and respect – to get on with his story. But along with Parker’s birth, one other event occurred on this date that demands – demands! – our attention. So please, allow me this brief excursion. On this Day in Music History Stupid On August 29, 1977 – 45 years ago today – three people were arrested in Memphis after trying to steal Elvis Presley’s body. (The New York Post headline pictured above indicates that four people were […]

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