Jazz Musicians Essay

Submitted By spark707
Words: 1494
Pages: 6

Jazz and Drugs Jazz musicians and drugs: some might say one cannot exist without the other. As jazz musicians began to rise, the use of narcotics also increased. Among the many great jazz musicians, it's difficult to find an artist who hasn't touched any type of narcotics. There are many reasons why people in general take drugs. It could be because they want to escape or relax, to rebel, to relieve boredom, or to experiment. It's because they want to change something about their lives. People might think drugs are the solutions to their problems but eventually, drugs become the problem. Drugs may help you escape from the reality for a moment but eventually you get to face the problems again. Some people may think that taking drugs will help you become more creative and inventive but drugs can also turn you into someone you're not. People may take drugs to get the feeling of happiness but when the drug wears off, they crash even lower than before. It gets worse every time. Eventually, drugs will completely destroy all the creativity a person has. Drugs lead many great jazz musicians like Billie Holiday and Miles Davis to end of their careers and to their deaths. So why do jazz musicians take drugs? A survey done by Nat Hentoff in 1957 showed 409 New York City jazz musicians confirmed that more than half tried heroin and marijuana. Sixteen percent was regular users of drugs. In the "Research Digest" article, Tolson and Cuyjet said the jazz greats turned to drugs to release their creativity, to enhance the natural high of performing, and to cope with the strain of a disapproving society. The musicians of the 40's and 60's spent most of their lives in nightclubs where drug use was common. Many had to face racisms where they had to enter from the back door, or were prohibited to converse with white patrons. There are musicians like the famous vocalist Billie Holiday who went through rough childhood and relationships which made her an addict most of her life. Eleanora Fagan, also known as Billie Holiday was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her mother, Sadie, was only a teenager when she had her and her father who was a successful jazz musician abandoned her. The two of them had a hard life and most of the time, Billie was left in the care of other people. When Billie was 9 years old, she was sent to the House of Good Shepherd which was a facility for troubled African American girls. Her major influence on her singing came when she ran errands for the girls in a near-by brothel in return for the privilege of listening to recordings by Mr. Armstrong and Miss Smith. At the age of 18, while performing in Harlem jazz club, a producer John Hammond discovered her and got her to work on a recording with a clarinetist Benny Goodman. She made her first recording, "Your Mother's Son-in-Law" in November 1933. She started series of recordings with the members of Count Basie's band. It was Lester Young, the tenor saxophonist, who gave her the nickname, "Lady Day". Billie Holiday broke the color barrier by becoming one of the black jazz singers of that era to perform with white musicians. "Even when she was young and singing trivial pop songs, her unique tone and emotional commitment made her performances special". Holiday used drugs for most of her life, starting as early as 12 or 13 years of age. It is unclear who first introduced her to drugs. Holiday sang many songs that reflected her personal romances that were destructive and abusive. In 1941, she married James Monroe, which she picked up her husband's habit of smoking opium. The marriage didn't last long and after that marriage, she started using heroin with her boyfriend Joe Guy. In 1945, her mother died which led Holiday's drug use to ease her heartache. Even with all her problems, she stayed as a major star in the jazz world. Holiday was in a film New Orleans with her idol Louis Armstrong in 1947. At the height of her musical career, her success