Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Charlie Parker’s Sax

From 1936 until 1997 Camarillo State Mental Hospital was a psychiatric hospital for both developmentally disabled and mentally ill patients.

This hospital was at the forefront of treating mentally ill patients with drug therapy. It also had one of the first units to treat autism.

This institutions' setting is unique. Camarillo's architecture reflects California’s Mission or Spanish Revival Style. A bell tower overlooks graceful fountains placed in tiled courtyards.

Originally Camarillo State Mental Hospital
Since 2002, this old hospital has been used as a branch of California State University, Channel Islands. Some buildings have been renovated, others have been left to deteriorate.

Witnesses on this campus report hearing the beautiful but mournful wail of an alto saxophone late at night. It has been established it is not a student playing loud music.

Many believe that this jazz music is played by one of the greats.

Charlie “Bird” Parker once served a 6-month sentence in a Camarillo mental ward.

Charlie "Bird" Parker
He first became famous internationally in the 1940s. His versions of pop classics, such as Sweet Georgia Brown, Embraceable You and Body and Soul established him second only to Louis Armstrong.

Early in his career, Parker became addicted to prescription pills. He felt they would give him more energy to play long hours. The sax is a strenuous instrument to play.

He then became addicted to heroin.

In June of 1946, using a rainbow of drugs he hit bottom. He wondered into the Hollywood Civic Hotel's lobby naked and playing his sax. Staff persuaded him to return to his room where he lit a cigarette and fell asleep. He set his mattress on fire.

A judge sentenced him to six months in Camarillo to help him detoxify. This saved his life--at least for a while.

When he was released in January of 1947 he was clean. This started a creative period for him that most Jazz historians agree was his most productive.

Tragically, he started using hard drugs again. When he died in Manhattan in 1955 at the age of 34 the world lost a talented musician.

On the Camarillo campus today people state you can still hear his music. 

Here is Summertime.

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