Jazz and Heroin, Longer talks about the trials and tribulations that African American Jazz musicians had to face post WI. Mainly, the discussion was on the introduction of Heroin into the jazz community. Because jazz musician were known to have high strung personalities, it became known they were partial to using stimulants to calm their nerves and became the target of drug dealers who would assure them that heroin would alleviate their anxieties.
The author gives the example about how Billie Holiday was approached before almost all of her show by drug dealers trying to sell to her. Longer goes on to say that not all of the musicians became heroin users on their own: but that many of them were pressured into drug use by fellow musicians, as well as drug dealers. Carol Drunkard was pressured into heroin use by Miles Davis. As Carl Drunkard stated ” Miles Davis put that needle in my arm and helped me wreck my life. ” Jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker, Fats Navaho, Chest Barker, Stan Get and Bill Evans also had their lives destroyed by heroin.
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Longer states far too many musicians; lives were wrecked by drugs. Longer talks about how after many African American vets returned home after protecting American freedom, they themselves had very little freedom and were condemned by racism. Music that was considered African American was also considered low class and was mainly played as background music for drinking and dancing. Billie Holiday, a famous Jazz singer, was forced to enter the white establishments she was hired to perform at through the back entrance. She wasn’t allowed to use the restrooms or speak to her fans by sitting at the bar.
In the short story Sonny Blues by James Baldwin, an unnamed narrator of the story discovers from a newspaper that his younger brother, Sonny, has by for selling and using heroin. Sonny is a troubled young man who keeps all of his problems bottled up, except when he plays music. Music, for Sonny, is a freeing and ultimately redemptive outlet, and perhaps, the only means he has for keeping himself away from prison and drugs. He channels into his performance not only his own rustication and disappointment, but also that of the entire community.