Jazz and Death: Medical Profiles of Jazz Greats

Jazz and Death: Medical Profiles of Jazz Greats

Jazz and Death: Medical Profiles of Jazz Greats

Jazz and Death: Medical Profiles of Jazz Greats

Excerpt

The first sentence in John O'Shea's Music and Medicine reads, "The great composers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are surrounded with legend and mythology." This also applies to jazz musicians of the next century: "One of the problems facing present-day jazz historians is the sorting out of myths and errors perpetuated by past writers. For some reason, jazz history has been plagued with erroneous information." The careers of many jazz musicians may have been accurately documented, but accounts of their illnesses and deaths often vary and lack conviction. One example is that "Moten fell ill during a road trip to Denver, and the doctors advised immediate surgery. Moten did not survive the operation." This implies that Bennie Moten died in Denver after an emergency operation for an acute illness. His death occurred in Kansas City during or after elective surgery for chronic tonsillitis. "Immediate" surgery on the tonsils is confined to the incision and drainage of a quinsy, or peritonsillar abscess, a shorter, simpler operation than removing them.

My aim in this book is fivefold: first, to promote accuracy in jazz historiography by correcting some of the "myths and errors perpetuated by past writers" second, to demonstrate the variation in accounts of the same event by different reporters; third, to explore the medical histories of selected major jazz musicians and, where applicable, to show how illness affected their lives; fourth, to discuss the prevalence of substance abuse in the world of jazz, especially in the second half of the twentieth century; and fifth, to encourage the further study of these neglected facets of jazz history.

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