How The Diving Bell and The Butterfly led me to Chet Baker

I am definitely a romantic. I don’t think life is really worth all the pain and effort, and struggling, if you don’t have somebody that you love very much.

Chet Baker

I’ve never heard about Chet Baker until yesterday. Technically, I didn’t hear about him, I read about him, mentioned in a review of a movie, that has nothing to do with Chet Baker. When you study a little art history it’s like a snow ball effect – you read about something (Julian Schnabel‘s film The Diving Bell and The Butterfly) and there the author makes parallels to something else, made before (Bruce Weber‘s film Let’s get lost), and this something else is about somebody you’ve never heard before.

So Chet Baker is one of the great (I would definitely guess so) american jazz musicians (trumpet) of the 20th century. (Just for the record, this doesn’t inevitably make him black). He was born in 1929, his dad was a guitarist. During the war Chet was playing in the army band in Berlin. He lived a lot in Europe, did drugs (heroin) and got a lot into trouble. Also lost a big amount of teeth. That’s what I found out till now, just retelling the surface of the story. (I don’t really think, that retelling somebody’s bio gives a clue who he actually was, his music will tell you much much more. But anyway, you get extra points for it). He was on top of his career in the late 1980s:

Chet’s performances in the eighties were unpredictable. Sometimes he would show up and perform the best gig of his career. Sometimes he would show up and perform poorly. Sometimes he wouldn’t even show up.

There’s something very sensual and fragile about his music. When you listen to it, you just dive in, no you fall in… you float in his music. You get lost in it. His music is in total contrast with Chet’s suffered face. May be in total contrast with his ambivalent life (that on the other hand may be made the depth and sensuality of his music (and his texts) possible).

Chet Baker died in 1988 – fell off the window of his hotel room in Amsterdam. Read more: here.

Author: meine kleine kunstgeschichte

I study Art History at the LMU Munich. I am interested in early Christian and Byzantine art and also in Islamic and Medieval art and architecture.

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