Because Blogger's "Adult warning" often goes into a perpetual loop (isn't working properly), I will be making all new posts at my WordPress blog. You can follow it even if you do not have a WordPress Account. There're also my Twitter and my Tumblr blog, my Facebook and my Google+ page and my group.
(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chet Baker

I dunno how I first discovered Chet Baker.  Or rather, I can't remember.  I think I was in one of those ghastly emporia selling DVDs and CDs and the devices you play them on, not a gay-shaded DVD in the place despite shelf after shelf of dreck.  I love jazz in all its flavours, ever since I first heard Paul Whiteman playing Whispering and was entranced, only to be informed by my then girlfriend that I was weird.  How right she was.  At any event, I saw the Chet Baker, marked down, and bought it.  At least, I think that's what happened.  Indulge a writer's creative memory.

He's a legend, only I didn't know it then.  He played the trumpet like a dream, smooth, mellow, honeyed.  Glorious.  And he sang.  His voice was curiously androgynous, almost contralto, pure but not thrilling, not great but nevertheless lovely.  Oh, and he was beautiful.  Extraordinarily beautiful.

Was he gay?  Hard to know.  He had a series of female friends all his life, without it seems having sex with them, though that could have been the heroin, but he married twice; he probably had a love affair with Dick Twardzik his piano accompanist; he was beaten up once after a show, allegedly for trying to buy drugs; and anyway, he was far too beautiful to be straight.  Gay or not, women and gay men adored him, and you can see why in the video.  The song is called My Buddy, and it is (deliberately? -- this was the mid-50s after all) ambiguous.  But this:
Miss your voice, the touch of your hand
Just long to know that you understand
Come now.  That's fairly direct, no?  Bi*, I suspect, but like Jack Kerouac homophobic.    It drove Kerouac to alcohol and Baker to drugs.  Perhaps.  Baker's emotional aloofness could have been because of that.  Lots of clues, but who knows in the end?  The song, though, is revealing.


*If I might be permitted to use a label I've just dismissed as useless and misleading.

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