“Post-war America, Jazz and Heroin” by Gang Longer and James Baldwin “Sonny’s Blues” Life after the Second World War changed for many, including the previously jolly jazzmen in Harlem. Whether through conspiracy, a search to remedy the anxieties of a ‘struggling for image’ musician, or Just something that was pressed as a requirement to belong, heroin certainly made its bleak presence known. Trumpeter Red Rodney once said, “Heroin became the thing that made us different from the rest f the world. It was the thing that gave us membership in a unique club. The conspiracy theory that some believe was planned to devastate Harem’s black inhabitants does seem to have some clout. Female Jazz musician Billie Holiday was one who may have fell Victim’ to this scheme. She was arrested in 1947 for narcotics charges, deliberately targeted for the such. Colonel White, a narcotics agent, we wanted to get some publicity… [The Idea of arresting her was] a sudden inspiration to polish her off, to kick her over. Her arresting officer Jimmy Fletcher also coasted that he was carrying over six pounds of heroin at one time, assuming used to supply his informants.
Post WI America appeared to have not been changed by way of the democratic freedoms won in Europe. Black Jazz musicians of this time were still singled out, denied integration with the rest of the population. They were forced to use staff lifts and back stairs at venues. They were made to stay in “black only” hotel rooms. And in some areas, they were even barred from eating In most restaurants. These young, lonely, unrecognized musicians tried to bond with one another to blot out the dismal oral around them; In an effort to find positively and acceptance, play together, and Inspire confidence, they were exposed to heroin.
Atone time, Jazz great Males Davis was even a pusher, helping expose others to heroin, possibly wrecking their lives. One of those exposed was Count Basis’s piano player Carl Drunkard, whom after being teased about being a square, tried heroin with Davis in 1952. Drunkard later commented, “Miles Davis put that needle in my arm and helped me wreck my life. ” Drunkard’s wrecked, junkie lifestyle was also experienced by the likes of Charlie Parker, Fats Innovator, Chest Baker, and Bill Evans. Sonny, our young, almost lost, seemingly repressed subject in James Baldwin “Sonny’s Blues” is a picture perfect example of all of this.
Growing up in post-war Harlem, a young black man, with Jazz in his heart, Sonny fell victim to the seemingly unavoidable heroin-Junkie lifestyle. On the path of trying to follow the music of his heart, he gets twisted up with the drug, and Like Billie Holiday, gets arrested for such. And Like society at the time, even Sonny older brother Is one to oppress him, saying, “Well, you may think it’s funny now, baby, but it’s not going to be so funny when you wrought the lives lived and manifested throughout this era, the blues come to surface.