Tuesday, August 07, 2007

August 7: Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1936-1977)

Jazz instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk (pictured at left, in sepia-toned profile) was born on this date in 1936, in Columbus, Ohio. He played all sorts of woodwind and reed instruments: saxophones, clarinets, flutes, harmonicas, English horn, among others. Oh, and sometimes he played more than one saxophone or flute at a time--and it didn't sound like rush hour traffic (unless he wanted it to, I guess).

Kirk was blind from infancy. He attended the Ohio State School for the Blind, where he played in the school band. He was playing professionally while still in his teens, and recorded his first album before he was old enough to vote, in 1956.

In 1975, Kirk had a stroke with lasting hemiplegia--so he modified some of his instruments to be played with just one hand. In the winter of 1977, Kirk had a second stroke, which was fatal. He was just 41 years old.

Check out Kirk in performance on YouTube, here, here, here, and here, for starters.

5 comments:

Ellen Deller said...

Kirk is an important figure in Andre Dubus's longish short story, "Dancing After Hours" in which a quadriplegic man and his PCA are also central characters (Dubus was a wheelchair-using amputee himself). The memory of Kirk's music has a life-changing effect on the main character, a nondisabled waitress. It's a good story!

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