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Top 10 facts about Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker, famously known as Yardbird or Bird, is an impactful musician of the 20th Century.  He was a composer, bandleader, lyric artist, and an American alto Saxophonist.

Numerous artists were influenced and impressed by his creativity and talent. People also called him the musician touched by the gods of music.

He contributed highly to jazz music despite having a very short music career. He was one of the most influential soloists and a leading figure who happened to develop a new form of Jazz, Bebop. 

Bebop took a great hit due to its unique nature in music as it was characterized by virtuosic technique, with advanced harmony and fast tempos.

Here is the top 10 list of interesting facts of an inspirational musician of the 20th Century, Charlie Parker.

10. Born to an African American Stage Performer and a maid-charwoman

Addie Parker - Charlie Parker's mother
Addie Parker – Charlie Parker’s mother

Charlie Parker, an alto saxophonist, was born on the 29th of August, 1920, in Kansas City. Kansas City was well-known for Jazz music with a unique form of jazz, Kansas City jazz.

Parker was born to Charles Christopher Parker Jr. and Addie Parker. Charles, his father, was an African American stage performer, and Addie, his mother, was a maid-charwoman.

His father, a musician who played worldwide, had to travel to different places to perform. Charlie traveled to different cities along with his father and mother.

However, they moved and settled in Kansas City when Charlie was 7 years old. His father abandoned them when he was just 11 years old. Since then, he and his mother had to struggle on their own for a better future.

9. Charlie Parker’s inclination towards Alto Saxophone

Charlie Parker performing the Alto Saxophone
Charlie Parker performing the Alto Saxophone

Charlie was interested and eager to learn music, so he chose the Saxophone as his main. He was passionate and was dedicated to learn and excel in saxophone.

So, at the age of 14, he managed to join his high school band, which was difficult to do. He started playing under the bandmaster, Alonzo Lewis, while in the band.

However, he did not stay long at school as he left his school around 15. He then began playing with numerous bands and learned different ways to perform.

Being an eager learner, he idolized Jimmy Dorsey, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and Loius Armstrong.

8. Neighbours were not happy with the noise made during his practice sessions

Charlie was inclined towards music from an early age. He began playing the saxophone when he was 10 years old.

He played the school’s instrument as he did not have any of his own. However, his mother bought an alto saxophone when he was 11 years old.

He, being a passionate musician, started practicing the saxophone every day for up to 15 hours. His practice sessions disturbed his neighbors, so he was asked to stop playing and disturbing the neighbors.

But, the complaint could not stop Charlie from playing his alto saxophone. He went on practicing whenever he got any chance to do so.

7. Unstable marital status

Charlie Parker with his wife Chan Parker
Charlie Parker with his wife Chan Parker

Parker was the most famous alto saxophonist of this time, and his music career was a stable one. However, his marital status was an unstable one.

He was married at a very young age of 16 with his long-term girlfriend, Rebecca Ruffin, on the 25th of July, 1936. They divorced, and he was married to his second wife, Geraldine Scott.

He then married Doris Parker in 1948 and stayed together until 1955. However, he did not divorce Doris even after staying together with Chan.

Chan Parker and Charlie started staying together in 1950. Though he was staying with Chan, he never married her officially but called her his wife. They both stayed together until 1955.

6. Addicted to heroin and alcohol

Charlie Parker being taken to an asylum
Charlie Parker being taken to an asylum

Charlie and Rebecca married when he was 16 years old in 1936. He met with an accident in the same year and was prescribed Morphine by his doctor.

Morphine helped him get relief from the pain. However, he did not stop taking the pills even after he was fully recovered. He got into an addiction to painkillers since then, which transferred to being addicted to heroin.

Charlie and his well-wishers wished for him to get rid of this addiction, so he was admitted to a Los Angeles rehabilitation center for about 6 months. However, it did not do any good for him.

His life was not as smooth as it seemed to others, and he also suffered from a mental health issue. This also adds up to his addiction. 

When Charlie moved to California, there was a slight sign of him quitting heroin, as heroin was not accessible easily. Unfortunately, instead of getting rid of heroin, he got addicted to alcohol.

5. Inventor of a new form of Jazz – Bebop

Charlie Parker- the inventor of Bebop
Charlie Parker- the inventor of Bebop

One of the most talented and influential alto saxophonists of the 20th Century, Charlie Parker, inspired and came up with various Jazz form innovations.

He started his career at an early age and was a big hit by the age of 20. He invented a new jazz form of Jazz, famously known as Bebop. It was possible to with the help and assistance of his crew.

Charlie’s band crew included famous trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk, guitarist Charlie Christian, and drummer Kenny Clarke. They began working towards originating a new form of jazz during the early 1940s.

Bebop happened to be a unique form of Jazz during the 20th Century as it was a modern form of Jazz with a faster tempo and advanced harmony.

4. His career history

Charlie Parker during his performance
Charlie Parker during his performance

Charlie Parker had a very inspirational and successful music career. He was the main person to introduce modern jazz, better known as Bebop.

He recorded his first solo when he was a member of McShann’s band. He then released some of the best-selling albums, including Bird and Diz, Bird: The Complete Parker on Verve, and Master Takes.

His first album, Encores, was released in 1944. However, his first recording was Now’s the Time, which was recorded a year later in 1945.

Despite recording and releasing numerous records, Charlie could not make a place in people’s hearts until 1949. However, people started respecting his music and artists of his genre from 1949.

Since then, he impressed people with his music, a complete mixture of variance in tone ranging from sweet to penetrating, from melancholy to clean one.

3. Won various prestigious awards

Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker

Parker was an outstanding musician of his time. He had managed to impress numerous artists and audiences.

He was awarded many prestigious awards during his music career. Some of the major ones include Grammy Hall of Fame – 1995, 1988, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award 1984, Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo 1975, and Porin Award for best Foreign Jazz music Award – 1998.

2. Complex musical relationship with Miles Davis

An image of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker performing together
An image of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker performing together

Charlie Parker and his band were already a big hit when he met Miles Davis. Seeing Davis’s unique way of performing, he offered Miles to join his band.

Since Miles joined his band, they started jamming up in numerous clubs and went for tours all around different cities.

They built up a very professional yet friendly relationship and began collaborating. However, despite their strong bond, they argued, and Miles left his band in 1948.

1. Tragic death at an early age

Charlie Parker's death news
Charlie Parker death news

Charlie’s death created chaos in the music industry as the industry lost one of the greatest gems of all time. 

He died at the early age of 34 from lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer. He had been addicted to heroin and alcohol for a long period. He also happened to suffer from a heart attack.


Charlie, one of the most impactful alto saxophonists of his time, has been inspiring every artist to date. 

Despite his short music career, he managed to impact everyone that came across his life. 

Even now, people enjoy his compositions and consider him as the god and father of bebop. It is very hard to find a person with a talent like him. His early demise has harmed the whole music industry.

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