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Charlie Parker: Age 34 | Cause Of Death: POOR MAINTENANCE

(August 1920, Kansas City, Kansas, USA, d. 12 March 1955)

Charlie Parker was black music’s first existential hero. There were problems. However, Parker’s heroin-related health problems came to a head following the notorious Loverman session of July 1946 when, after setting his hotel-room on fire, the saxophonist was incarcerated in the psychiatric wing of the LA County Jail and then spent six months in a rehabilitation centre (commemorated in Relaxin’ At Camarillo’, 1947).  His health had continued to give him problems: ulcers and cirrhosis of the liver. His last public appearance was on 4 March 1955, at Birdland, the club named after him: it was a fiasco —Parker and pianist Bud Powell rowed onstage, the latter storming off followed shortly by bassist Charles Mingus. Disillusioned, obese and racked by illness, Parker died eight days later in the hotel suite of Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a wealthy aristocrat and stalwart bebop fan.