Chasin' the Bird: Charlie Parker and the Enraptured Poets of the Fifties
I was always on a panic -- couldn't buy clothes or a good place to live. . . . The mental strain was getting worse all the time. What made it worst of all was that nobody understood our kind of music out on the [West] Coast. . . . Finally, I broke down.
-- Charlie Parker
When Parker, a poet in jazz, Gave one hundred seventy pounds to a one-ounce needle, His music, his life, Six hipsters from uptown Called it a religious sacrifice And wore turbans. Our poet wore lonely death, Leaving his breath in a beat.
-- Bob Kaufman
In Bird Lives! The High Life and Hard Times of Charlie Parker ( 1973), Ross Russell re-creates a meeting with the famed alto saxophonist and Dean Benedetti who, with sycophantic diligence, recorded numerous Parker performances. 1 Benedetti enters the room while Bird voraciously but methodically devours his second enormous Comida Conquistador dinner. "Hey, man," says Parker, "dig this crazy Mex stuff!" and Benedetti, no doubt wishing that he liked Mexican food but unable to lie to his hero, replies, "It don't kill me" (6). Russell comments:
The don't is deliberate. Errors in grammar and Dean's acquired, specialized, limited vocabulary are all part of the efforts he is making to become a white Negro. The highschool education received at Susanville, California, before entering the