Heroin, cancer – nothing could stop your prayer: a saint of music.
The history haiku for today is to honor the birth of the legendary jazz musician John Coltrane (1926 – 1967). He struggled with addiction as a young man, and sadly, his career was cut short by liver cancer at the age of 40, but he had an outsized impact on jazz and music in general. Especially towards the end of his life, he believed his music had a spiritual dimension, one that transcended any particular religion and tended towards a universalism.
John Coltrane has made an appearance here on Illustrated Poetry before – in an illustration of the poem In Memoriam John Coltrane by Michael Stillman. I’ve posted it below (or click here to go to the original post from 2014). Have a great weekend!
Waring Cuney was a poet of the Harlem Renaissance – his poem “No Images” was later turned into a song by Nina Simone. In this quatrain he refers to the tragic ending of another famous African-American jazz singer, Bessie Smith. Bessie Smith died of her injuries after a gruesome traffic accident in the rural South in 1937. It was widely reported that she died after being refused treatment at a nearby whites-only hospital and this is likely the version of the story Mr. Cuney knew. Witnesses interviewed many years later reported that this was not true. As an African-American, she would never have been taken to a white hospital: she died of her injuries after waiting over an hour for an ambulance from a black hospital. Either way, Mr. Cuney’s question follows us, as relevant as ever. Drawing (in on paper) and composition by me.