- NAME: Charlie Parker
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Saxophonist
- BIRTH DATE: August 29, 1920
- DEATH DATE: March 12, 1955
- EDUCATION: Lincoln High School, Charles Sumner Elementary
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Kansas City, Kansas
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- Full Name: Charles Christopher Parker Jr.
- Nickname: Bird
- Nickname: Yardbird
- AKA: Charles Parker
- AKA: Charlie Parker
Best Known For
Charlie Parker was a legendary Grammy Award–winning jazz saxophonist who with Dizzy Gillespie invented the musical style called bop or bebop.
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In 1942 burgeoning jazz musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk saw Parker perform with McShann’s band in Harlem, and were impressed by his unique playing style. Later that year, Parker signed up for an eight-month gig with Earl Hines. In 1944,
Parker joined the Billy Eckstine band.
The year 1945 proved a landmark one for Parker. At this stage in his career, he is believed to have come into his maturity as a musician. For the first time, he became the leader of his own group, while also performing with Dizzy Gillespie on the side. At the end of that year, the two musicians launched a six-week nightclub tour of Hollywood. Together they managed to invent an entirely new style of jazz, commonly known as bop, or bebop. After the joint tour, Parker stayed on in Los Angeles performing until the summer of 1946. After a period of hospitalization, he returned to New York in January of 1947 and formed a quintet there. With his quintet, Parker performed some of his best-known and best-loved songs. During this time, he managed to showcase his talents, not only by playing bebop, but also by composing his own songs, including ballads like "Embraceable You," which falls under the broader jazz genre.
From 1947 to 1951 Parker performed in ensembles and solo at a variety of venues, including clubs and radio stations. Parker also signed with a few different record labels during his later career. From 1945 to 1948 he recorded for Dial. In 1948 he recorded for Savoy Records before signing with the Mercury label.
In 1949 Parker made his European debut at the Paris International Jazz Festival, and went on to visit Scandinavia in 1950. Meanwhile, back home in New York, the Birdland Club was being named in his honor. In March of 1955, Parker made his last public performance at Birdland, a week before his death.
Throughout his adult life, Parker’s battles with heroin addiction, alcoholism and mental illness caused turbulence in his career and personal relationships. By the time Parker married Rebecca Ruffin in 1936, he had already started abusing drugs and alcohol. The couple had two children before divorcing in 1939. In 1942, Parker remarried to Geraldine Scott. Financial stresses created a rift between the couple, and Parker turned to heroin for an escape. He ended up leaving his second wife not long after they were married.
In June of 1946, while performing solo in Los Angeles, Parker had to cut his tour short when he suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to a mental hospital, where he stayed until January of 1947. Newly clean in 1948, Parked married Doris Snyder, but the marriage fell apart within less than a year, when Parker started using again. His heroin abuse only increased after the divorce.
In the early 1950s, Parker took on a live-in girlfriend, a jazz fan named Chan Richardson. Chan took Parker’s last name and gave him two children: daughter Pree, who lived for only two years, and son Baird, who was born just a year and a day before Parker’s death.
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