Charles Mingus would have turned 100 – RFI Musique

Born on April 22, 1922, the American double bassist and conductor Charles Mingus was a rebel, an angry man who, through his works, challenged the established order at a time when protest was a dangerous audacity. 2022 marks the centenary of this rebellious man whose free spirit inspired many of his disciples and heirs. After her death in 1979, Sue Mingus took up the torch and tirelessly continued to defend the honor of her late husband. She spoke many times on the airwaves and her testimony, found in our archives, still strongly validates the artistic and civic commitment of an indomitable teacher.

The fiery personality of Charles Mingus has often overshadowed the heritage importance of his repertoire. In addition to his numerous collaborations with the great figures of yesteryear, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, his compositions have often illustrated his experience and that of his contemporaries. the. It was in the early 1960s that his creative genius began to arouse the interest of the jazz world and, at times, the ire of his detractors. Long before the civil rights movement rocked American society, Charles Mingus was already a whistleblower protesting against abuse and abuse by American authorities against the African-American community. In 1959, he released three successive albums, including the famous mingus oh um which will become one of his most famous recording achievements.

© Redferns – Frans Schellekens

Susan Mingus, widow of Charles Mingus, in Amsterdam, in 1987.

In this historical record, he denounces the insane choices of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. This politician, a supporter of segregation, chose in 1957 to defy federal laws passed three years earlier by prohibiting nine black teenagers from the city of Little Rock from entering high school. It will take the intervention of the 101st Airborne Division by order of President Eisenhower for the racist governor to comply with the injunctions issued by the Supreme Court of the United States. Charles Mingus will compose fables of faubus (The fables of Faubus) in reaction to this less than glorious episode in American history. the scrapbook mingus oh um However, it was not just a tirade against bigotry and injustice, it also honored the jazz heroes who inspired the double bassist and conductor. No less than four great virtuosos, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Lester Young, were the subject of strong musical reverence.

© Bettmann Archive – Bettmann

Nine black students escorted by the 101st Airborne Division by order of President Eisenhower, in Little Rock, 1957.

Until the last moments of his tumultuous fate, Charles Mingus tried to remain a free man whose artistic choices and directness could, of course, annoy his interlocutors, but meant his independence of mind and demanding insubordination. On June 18, 1978, the very Democratic US President, Jimmy Carter, organizes an evening of jazz at the White House in the presence of Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Mary Lou Williams, Eubie Blake, the producer John Hammond and… Charles Mingus, very excited by this invitation that finally crowns a lifetime dedicated to the recognition of black culture. Six months later, Charles Mingus will disappear at the age of 56, dragged down by the disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Charles Mingus at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1971.

His music and his statements changed the social status of African Americans during the 20th century. His incessant fight against discrimination and his irreverent musicality nourish our understanding of a convulsive time whose nauseating odors still mistreat hopes for peace and unity on an international scale.

Charles Mingus website.


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