On the day of Charlie “Bird” Parker’s 100th birthday, it is impossible to overstate the impact and influence that the legendary jazz icon has had on music and culture. Born on August 29th, 1920, in Kansas City, Kansas, Parker is simply one of the most important Black American figures in history, a towering musical genius who blazed his own path as a pioneering musician and composer, altering the course of music forever.
65 years after his untimely passing in 1955 at just 34 years old, as the expression goes – Bird Lives! And none more than in his immortal compositions that continue to influence generations and can be heard in music from today’s visionaries, ranging from the envelope pushing hip-hop of Kendrick Lamar to the sprawling, celestial jazz of Kamasi Washington. There’s no better way to celebrate Parker and his centennial than by listening to some of his most revered and timeless performances like “Ko Ko,” “Ornithology,” “Summertime,” “Relaxin’ At The Camarillo,” “Just Friends” and “A Night In Tunisia” and many more all weekend long. Head over to https://stream.lnk.to/CharlieParker to stream his music now.
All this week, some of Bird’s most famous fans such as Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Jon Batiste, Christian McBride and Jeff Goldblum, and others, have been honoring him with video tributes on the Official Charlie Parker YouTube Channel. Today, President Bill Clinton has provided a heartfelt salute about his fellow alto saxophonist who he remarks, “left this world far too young but his spirit survives through the beauty, the power, the genius, of his music. It sounds and feels as young today as when he first played it and when I first heard it.” To check out a playlist of all the videos, visit: https://www.youtube.com/charlieparkerofficial
Fans are encouraged to create their own birthday tributes to Parker with a post or video on their socials using the hashtag #Bird100 to share a happy birthday message, their thoughts on Parker at 100, a musical performance of one of his songs or any other way they’d like to show their love and admiration for Bird.
If jazz history can be divided into two epochs — danceable swing and improvisational bebop — then Parker is the fault line. During his all too short but remarkable career, the alto saxophonist nicknamed “Bird” gave jazz lightning tempos, mind-bending chord substitutions, and previously unexplored harmonic depth, paving the way for hard bop, free jazz, fusion and everything after. Miles Davis summed up his accomplishments: “You can tell the history of jazz in four words. Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.” Parker was a meteoric musician that burned bright and much too quick. But his legacy more than lives on; it’s jazz scripture.
Jack Kerouac called him “as important as Beethoven.” Four of his recordings were inducted into the GRAMMY® Hall of Fame including albums Charlie Parker With Strings and Jazz At Massey Hall and the songs “Ornithology” and “Billie’s Bounce.” In 1974, he was awarded a posthumous GRAMMY® for Best Performance By A Soloist for “First Recordings.” In 1988, the Clint Eastwood-directed biopic “Bird” brought his story to the silver screen. The U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor in 1995. The Parker composition “Ko Ko” was included in the National Recorded Registry in 2002, declaring the song as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform(s) or reflect(s) life in the United States.” Although his life and career were short, the New Yorker has praised Parker as “one of the wonders of twentieth-century music” and the New York Times deemed him “matchless” and a “bebop exemplar.”
BIRD IS THE WORD
QUOTES ABOUT AND FROM CHARLIE PARKER
“You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker.” – Miles Davis
“If Charlie Parker were a gunslinger, there'd be a whole lot of dead copycats.” – Charles Mingus
“I believe that a hundred years from now, when people look back at the 20th century, they will view Bird, Miles and Dizzy as our Mozart, Bach, Chopin and Tchaikovsky.” – Quincy Jones
"Musically as important as Beethoven.” – Jack Kerouac
“In the 34 years of his life, Charlie Parker changed the future of jazz. He was a huge influence on me and I can’t thank him enough for the great contributions that he has made to the jazz scene and consequently to life itself.” – Herbie Hancock
"Bird left this world far too young but his spirit survives through the beauty, the power, the genius, of his music. It sounds and feels as young today as when he first played it and when I first heard it. When I was young, I listened over and over to his solos – breaking old patterns, building something new – 60 years later I'm still in awe of him and I wish I could have played half as well." – President Bill Clinton
“When I did 'Bird,' it was a surprise to some people, first because I wasn't in it and second because most of the films I'd been doing were cop movies or westerns or adventure films, so to be doing one about Charlie Parker, who was a great influence on American music, was a great thrill for me.” – Clint Eastwood
“I listened to Charlie Parker, at a very young age, I was just drawn to it.” – Zack de la Rocha
“The real punk rock in America is bebop.” – Henry Rollins
"I love John Coltrane. I love Charlie Parker. Before I tapped my own voice in music, their voices inspired me." – Kamasi Washington
“I can always listen to Django Reinhardt and hear something I haven't heard before. I like to listen to Art Tatum and Coltrane and Charlie Parker. Those are guys who never seem to run out of ideas.” – Jerry Garcia
“Whenever I'm in Kansas City, I think back to all the jazz-blues greats who played the blues here - like Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Jay McShann. I watched those guys jam in different places and heard a lot of things - but I couldn't do what they did. They were too good.” – B.B. King
“As a very small girl, I listened to Charlie Parker and loved him and Max Roach and people like that.” – Aretha Franklin
“I didn't know what the hell Charlie Parker was playing... I just liked the way he played.” – Charlie Watts
“Mozart was born Mozart. Charlie Parker was born Charlie Parker.” – Damien Chazelle
“Charlie Parker. The greatest of all time.” – Jeff Goldblum
“You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.” – Charlie Parker
“Don't play the saxophone, let the saxophone play you.” – Charlie Parker