Jazz, Rage and the Rampage - JazzWax

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January 17, 2011


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I'm reminded of a line in the Marc Myers interview: "I wanted to see if the musicians were as beautiful as the music that they played...some were, some weren't." Of course we shouldn't take the Times' word that this guy was a "talented" musician. It's possible that "Summertime" was the only tune that he played and that he consistently murdered it; although this still wouldn't explain Rosolino. However, if there were a direct link between music and crime, the current popularity of rap should be producing a huge spike in the violent crime rate.

Ed Leimbacher

Amen to David's remark about violent rap; how did Soul Music ever get detoured down such a dead end street? Alan Kurtz has just published a book (Stereotypes in Black Music) that in part examines rap's descent into anger, abuse, and murderous madness.

Or consider the endless wars in the Balkans and parts of Africa and the restive Middle East. Whole blocks of society and un-civilization, as well as troubled individuals--musicians included--have committed heinous acts in the name of honor, revenge, national pride, shameless self-interest, and more, with shocking, unthinking ease. America sadly has her chapters of murderous history too, right up to the present. Nobody heeds those lessons, it seems.

Anyway, some musicians--just like regular folks--have mental problems needing medical attention. Besides Rosolino, there are terrible tales about Reggae's Don Drummond, Western Swing's Spade Cooley, and others. And I believe one or two Jazzmen and comedians alive today have been known to require medication to maintain their precarious mental balance. But better meds than madness.


The gist of your article is quite, well, sane. However, I think your lead sentence is defensive and ill-chosen. The art is different than the artist. One problem with conflating the 2 is that it leaves us susceptible to the machinations of a very sophisticated marketing industry-an industry the effects of which the jazz community has been bemoaning for some time.


A very thoughtful article, Marc. In fact your musings about Loughner and jazz make a lot more sense than much of what has been written about him.


Several (!) jazz musicians have been wife-beaters and a couple have done time for homicide. The art you make matters not!

Mark Larson

I'm not sure where I heard it, but I recall the phrase: "Revere the Art, not the Artist." The phrase is certainly true of Picasso, etc. Also, perhaps something to factor in is the toll that road/touring can take on a musician. Musicians must do it to make a living, but few get energy from it, after the novelty wears off. I wonder if for some, that encourages the slide into drugs, alcohol, etc. Start with a creative/sensitive/volatile temperament, add a disruptive/road environment = more liklihood of addiction/mental illness? Just my thoughts. . .

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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