Charlie Parker never achieved stardom, at least not by the standards of the music business. He never had a gold record to hang on the wall or enjoyed a significant radio hit. He never had a contract with a major record label. His face didn’t appear, even in a bit role, in a Hollywood film. If you measure a musician’s worth at the cash register—the ultimate arbiter of talent nowadays, or so it seems—Parker can only be called a minor figure, operating at the fringes of the entertainment industry.
Charles Mingus (bass), Roy Haynes (drums), Thelonious Monk (piano), Charlie Parker (alto saxophone) in New York (1953)
But within the subculture of modern jazz, Parker was more than a star. He was a legend. Even before his death at age 34, 60 years ago this month, Parker had assumed the status of a demigod among those who