… as long as we’re all thinking about it in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death. This is from a review of a biography about jazz trumpeter Chet Baker:

In this book, heroin, as it takes over one musician after another, one scene, one city, one country (Gavin quotes the pianist René Urtreger estimating “that by the midfifties, 95 percent of the modern jazz players in France — himself included — were hooked”), is more than a plague, more than an endless horror movie, the reels running over and over, out of order, back to front (“It was like the Night of the Living Dead,” one fan tells Gavin of a Baker show in Paris in 1955. “Dark suits, gray faced, stoned out of their minds. Everything seemed strange to me, unhealthy. They were playing the music of the dead”). By the end — “Baker filled the syringe, then held it up. ‘Bob, you could kill a bunch of cows with this,’ he said. He plunged the needle into his scrotum.” – ”The man was a walking corpse,” the Rotterdam jazz hanger-on Bob Holland told Gavin. “He was living only for the stuff. Music was the last resort to get it” — it’s as if heroin itself has agency, and seeks out bodies to inhabit, colonize, and use up, not a substance but a parasitic form of life whose mission is to destroy its host, knowing that it can always leap to another. But the essential humanity of the host — his or her actual reality as someone who planted a foot on the planet before he or she left it, to be forgotten along with almost everyone else — is, in these pages, never reduced, whether it is that of Baker, or any of the musicians, friends, wives, or lovers trailing in his wake, those he knew and those he didn’t (from one dealer’s client list: “Bobby Darin, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Anita O’Day, Lenny Bruce, and the rock star Dion”), by 1981 “a growing trail of corpses.”

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4 Responses to “More on Heroin…”

  1. Greg Says:

    Let me recommend a movie about Chet Baker’s life “Let’s Get Lost.”

    While, among other things, we’re rembering CB, it might be good to listen to his short, beautiful performance of Fair Weather.


  2. Mr Punch Says:

    Bill Moody’s mystery, Looking for Chet Baker, is better than one might expect.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Greg: Listening to it now.

  4. Daniel S. Goldberg Says:

    I love Chet Baker. It is truly astonishing to see pictures of him looking very James Dean-esque during the cool jazz era of the 1950s, and compare it to pictures of him taken during the 1970s.

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