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Biography

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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 21 October 1917Cheraw, South Carolina, USA
Date of Death 6 January 1993Englewood, New Jersey, USA  (pancreatic cancer)
Birth NameJohn Birks Gillespie
Nickname DG

Mini Bio (1)

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, along with Charlie Parker, ushered in the era of Be-Bop in the American jazz tradition. He was born in Cheraw, South Carolina, and was the youngest of nine children. He began playing piano at the age of four and received a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. Most noted for his trademark "swollen cheeks", Gillespie admitted to copying the style of trumpeter Roy Eldridge early in his career. He replaced Eldridge in the 'Teddy Hill' Band after Eldridge's departure. He eventually began experimenting and creating his own style which would eventually come to the attention of Mario Bauza, the Godfather of Afro-Cuban jazz who was then a member of the Cab Calloway Orchestra. Joining Calloway in 1939, Gillespie was fired after two years when he cut a portion of Calloway's buttocks with a knife after Calloway accused him of throwing spitballs (the two men later became lifelong friends and often retold this story with great relish until both of their deaths). Although noted for his on- and off-stage clowning, Gillespie endured as one of the founding fathers of the Afro-Cuban &/or Latin Jazz tradition. Influenced by Bauza, known as Gillespie's musical father, he was able to fuse Afro-American jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms to form a burgeoning CuBop sound. Always a musical ambassador, he toured Africa, the Middle East and Latin America under the sponsorship of the US State Department. Quite often he returned, not only with fresh musical ideas, but with musicians who would eventually go on to achieve world renown. Among his proteges and collaborators are 'Chano Pozo', the great Afro-Cuban percussionist; Danilo Pérez, a master pianist and composer originally from Panama; Arturo Sandoval, trumpeter, composer and music educator originally from Cuba; Mongo Santamaría, an Afro-Cuban conguero, bonguero and composer; David Sanchez, saxophonist and composer; Chucho Valdés, an Afro-Cuban virtuoso pianist and composer; and Bobby Sanabria, a Bronx, NY-born Nuyorican percussionist, composer, educator, bandleader and expert in the Afro-Cuban musical tradition. Indeed, many Latin jazz classics such as "Manteca", "A Night in Tunisia" and "Guachi Guaro [Soul Sauce]" were composed by Gillespie and his musical collaborators. With a strong sense of pride in his Afro-American heritage, he left a legacy of musical excellence that embraced and fused all musical forms, but particularly those forms with roots deep in Africa such as the music of Cuba, other Latin American countries and the Caribbean. Additionally, he left a legacy of goodwill and good humor that infused jazz musicians and fans throughout the world with a genuine sense of jazz's ability to transcend national and ethnic boundaries--for this reason, Gillespie was and is an international treasure.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: L. J. Allen-2

Spouse (1)

Lorraine Willis (9 May 1940 - 6 January 1993) (his death)

Trade Mark (2)

45 degree slant on his trumpet
Ballooning cheeks as he played

Trivia (11)

Interred at Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, Queens, New York, USA.
Jazz trumpeter, the driving force behind bebop with Charlie Parker.
Awarded the Polar Music Prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music Award, in 1993.
Inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1982.
He joined ASCAP in 1957.
He was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1989 by the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington D.C.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 7057 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
When playing, Dizzie Gillespie's cheeks would expand to extraordinary size, ballooning out far more than the average horn players do. This feature is so pronounced that there is now a medical condition named after this anomaly. Because he was the first, for all practical purposes, to have demonstrated this condition, and because since its recognition by the medical community there have been others who now exhibit similar symptoms, this condition has been officially named, "Gillespie's Pouches.".
Played the trumpet solo on "Do I Do" from Stevie Wonder's "Musiquarium" compilation album (1982).
He was nominated for the 2012 New Jersey Hall of Fame for his contributions to Arts and Entertainment.
He was nominated for a 2013 New Jersey Hall of Fame for Arts and Entertainment.

Personal Quotes (3)

"We have to play a benefit tonight for the B'nai Brith and the NAACP. It's sponsored by the John Birch Society, the Ku Klux Klan, the Catholic Youth Organization and the YMCA and it's being held in the Greyhound Bus Station at Jackson, Mississippi." (humorous and sarcastic statement made in early 1960s during C.O.R.E.'s attempts to desegregate interstate travel)
"'Kush' is a number we wrote on our recent trip to Africa, where we were busy making apologies for the [U.S.] State Department." (humorous and sarcastic statement about U.S. policy regarding Africa during peak of the African Independence Movement, early 1960s)
[on Charlie Parker]: "He was the other half of my heartbeat."

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