The “chet baker death” is the cause of the renowned jazz pianist’s death. He was found dead in his car on December 20, 1988. The official cause of death was listed as an overdose of alcohol and drugs.
The jazz legend Chet Baker had a long and storied career. His music is often considered some of the most beautiful in all of recorded history, with his style being described as “cool air on your face” by one critic. In honor of this legendary musician’s birthday today, here are three places to start exploring his life and work.—
Chet Baker was a key figure in the early and mid-’50s West Coast school of cool jazz. He had a typically reserved, personal playing style as a trumpeter, and he drew notice outside of jazz for his attractive features and vocals. His career, however, was damaged by his drug addiction.
Baker’s father, Chesney Henry Baker, Sr., was a musician who was forced to work in a perfumery during the Great Depression. In 1940, the family relocated from Oklahoma to Glendale, California. Baker was a member of a church choir and competed in amateur contests as a youngster. His father bought him a trombone before he reached puberty, but when the bigger instrument proved too much for him, he switched to a trumpet. He had his first official music instruction in junior high and subsequently at Glendale High School, but he spent the remainder of his life mainly by ear. He dropped out of high school in 1946, at the age of 16, and his parents signed documents enabling him to join in the army; he was sent to the 298th Army Band in Berlin, Germany. He enrolled at El Camino College in Los Angeles after his discharge in 1948, where he studied theory and harmony while performing in jazz clubs, but he dropped out in the midst of his second year. In 1950, he re-enlisted in the army and joined the Sixth Army Band in the Presidio in San Francisco. However, he started sitting in at local clubs and eventually got a second discharge to pursue a career as a professional jazz pianist.
Baker began his career with Vido Musso’s band and then with Stan Getz. (The first Baker recording is a performance of “Out of Nowhere” on the Fresh Sound Records LP Live at the Trade Winds, which was taken from a tape of a jam session recorded on March 24, 1952.) In the spring of 1952, he was selected during an audition to perform a series of West Coast concerts with Charlie Parker, and he made his debut with the legendary saxophonist on May 29, 1952, at the Tiffany Club in Los Angeles. That summer, he joined the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, a quintet consisting solely of baritone sax, trumpet, bass, and drums (no piano), which gained notoriety during a performance at the Haig nightclub and through recordings on the newly formed Pacific Jazz Records (later known as World Pacific Records), beginning with the 10″ LP Gerry Mulligan Quartet, which featured Baker’s famous rendition of “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
The Gerry Mulligan Quartet lasted less than a year before disbanding after its leader was arrested for cocaine use in June 1953. On July 24, 1953, Baker went solo, creating his own foursome with Russ Freeman on piano, Red Mitchell on bass, and Bobby White on drums, and made his debut album as a soloist for Pacific Jazz. Baker received acclaim from both fans and reviewers, and he went on to win a number of surveys over the following several years. Chet Baker Sings, published by Pacific Jazz in 1954, boosted his fame while alienating conventional jazz enthusiasts; he continued to sing for the remainder of his career. His sculpted good features drew the attention of neighboring Hollywood, and he made his acting debut in the film Hell’s Horizon, which was released in the autumn of 1955. He turned down a studio deal, however, and instead toured Europe from September 1955 to April 1956. He established a quintet with saxophone Phil Urso and pianist Bobby Timmons when he returned to the United States. Despite his reputation for easygoing, laid-back playing, Baker adopted a more bop-influenced approach with this group, who released the album Chet Baker & Crew in July 1956 on Pacific Jazz.
Baker visited the United States with the Birdland All-Stars in February 1957, and later that year, he led a group to Europe. In 1959, he moved back to Europe, living in Italy, where he appeared in the film Urlatori Alla Sbarra. Meanwhile, Hollywood had not completely abandoned him, at least as a source of inspiration, and in 1960, a fictitious film history of his life, All the Fine Young Cannibals, was released, starring Robert Wagner as Chad Bixby.
Baker became addicted to heroin in the 1950s and was temporarily imprisoned on numerous times, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that his drug problem started to really interfere with his career. In the summer of 1960, he was caught in Italy and spent almost a year and a half in prison. In February 1962, he recorded Chet Is Back! for RCA to commemorate his release. (It was later released under the titles The Italian Sessions and Somewhere Over the Rainbow.) He was detained in West Germany later that year and exiled to Switzerland, then France, before returning to England in August 1962 to star in the film The Stolen Hours, which was released in 1963. In March 1963, he was deported from England to France for a narcotics crime. Over the following year, he resided in Paris and played there and in Spain, but he was deported back to the United States after being detained again in West Germany. On March 3, 1964, he came to America after five years in Europe, and throughout the mid-’60s, he mainly performed in New York and Los Angeles, switching from trumpet to flügelhorn. He was severely beaten in San Francisco in the summer of 1966 as a result of his drug addiction. Due to his own untrustworthy evidence, the event is often misdated and overstated in chronicles of his life. For example, it is often assumed that all of his teeth were knocked out, but this is not the case; one tooth was shattered, and the overall degeneration of his teeth led to his wearing dentures in the late 1960s, requiring him to retrain his embouchure. The beating was not the reason of his career’s downfall at this time, but it was symbolic of it. By the end of the 1960s, he was only recording and performing rarely, and by the early 1970s, he had entirely ceased playing.
Baker eventually mounted a comeback that culminated in a prominent New York club engagement in November 1973 and a reunion concert with Gerry Mulligan at Carnegie Hall in November 1974 that was recorded and released by Epic Records, regaining some control over his life by taking methadone to control his heroin addiction (though he remained an addict). Baker was allowed to return to Europe in the mid-’70s, and he spent the remainder of his life there, with occasional visits to Japan and stints back in the United States, but he had no permanent residency. He drew the notice of rock artists, with whom he collaborated on occasion, such as when he added trumpet to Elvis Costello’s anti-Falklands War song “Shipbuilding” in 1983. Bruce Weber, a photographer and filmmaker, made a documentary film on Baker in 1987. Baker died the next year after ingesting heroin and cocaine and falling from a hotel window in Amsterdam. Let’s Get Lost, Weber’s picture, debuted to great acclaim in September 1988 and received an Academy Award nomination. Baker’s unfinished autobiography, As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir, was released in 1997, and the book was optioned by Miramax for a film adaptation.
Baker’s drug addiction led him to live a chaotic and peripatetic existence, forcing him to accept numerous ill-advised recording offers and preventing him from making long-term commitments to record companies due to his unreliability. As a consequence, his discography is varied and vast.
Chet Baker was a jazz musician and singer who became famous in the 1950s. He is considered to be one of the most important jazz musicians of all time. His songs are often about love, loss, and heartbreak. Reference: chet baker old.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Chet Bakers most famous song?
A: This is a difficult question to answer without knowing more about you. What are your interests?
Is Chet Baker dead?
Was Chet Baker ever married?
A: Yes, Chet Baker married twice and had five children.
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