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John Coltrane


John Coltrane

Lately I have been listening to the Complete Atlantic Recordings of John Coltrane. The Heavyweight Champion. This collection of Coltrane recordings are such a treat. It is phenomenal what he is able to channel in his music. But I was reading Alice Miller’s “The Untouched Key” the other day and I started thinking about Coltrane. Miller talks about the effects that early childhood trauma has on the psyche of the artist and the way it effects their artistic expression later in life. With Coltrane’s well-documented struggles with Heroin addiction, I wonder what his childhood felt like to him. I am curious. With his father, his uncle and his grandparents all passing away in 1939 when John was just 13, it had to have been a brutal and terrifying time for him. That kind of profound loss in such a compressed moment, had to have been devastating for him. One would imagine. There came a time during the war that he in fact was left by his mother and his aunt with friends as they had to move north to seek work. Again, stating the obvious here, but that must have been incredibly traumatic. To say nothing of the way it undoubtedly felt for Coltrane to grow up as a person of color in a brutally white world!! When you listen to some of Coltrane’s best performances, to me they feel like he has left his body.  I imagine that as much as anything Coltrane’s struggle with his addiction to heroin revolved around some kind of need for weightlessness and freedom from the pain or trauma. While this is certainly not a unique idea, it is something that never ceases to amaze me when I listen him play–that is to say, the sheer totality of what is behind Coltrane’s sound.

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