July 17, 1967: John Coltrane Died from Liver Cancer at Huntington Hospital

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July 17, 1967: John Coltrane died from liver cancer at Huntington Hospital on Long Island, at the age of 40.

His funeral was held 4 days later at St. Peters Lutheran Church in New York City. The Albert Ayler Quartet and The Ornette Coleman Quartet respectively opened and closed the service. He is buried at Pinelawn Cemetery in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Biographer Lewis Porter has suggested, somewhat controversially, that the cause of Coltrane’s illness was hepatitis, although he also attributed the disease to Coltrane’s heroin use. In a 1968 interview, Albert Ayler claimed that Coltrane was consulting a Hindu meditative healer for his illness instead of Western medicine, though Alice Coltrane later denied this.

His death surprised many in the musical community who were not aware of his condition. Miles Davis commented: “Coltrane’s death shocked everyone, took everyone by surprise. I knew he hadn’t looked too good… But I didn’t know he was that sick—or even sick at all.”

The Coltrane family reportedly remains in possession of much more as-yet-unreleased music, mostly mono reference tapes made for the saxophonist and, as with the 1995 release Stellar Regions, master tapes that were checked out of the studio and never returned. The parent company of Impulse!, from 1965 to 1979 known as ABC Records, purged much of its unreleased material in the 1970s. Lewis Porter has stated that Alice Coltrane, who died in 2007, intended to release this music, but over a long period of time; her son Ravi Coltrane, responsible for reviewing the material, is also pursuing his own career.

John William Coltrane, also known as “Trane”, was a jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and later was at the forefront of free jazz. He organized at least 50 recording sessions as a leader during his recording career and appeared as a sideman on many other albums, notably with trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk.

As his career progressed, Coltrane and his music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension. His second wife was pianist Alice Coltrane and their son Ravi Coltrane is also a saxophonist. Coltrane influenced innumerable musicians and remains one of the most significant saxophonists in jazz history. He received many posthumous awards and recognitions, including canonization by the African Orthodox Church as Saint John William Coltrane.

In 2007, Coltrane was awarded the Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”

?The influence Coltrane has had on music spans many different genres and musicians. Coltrane’s massive influence on jazz, both mainstream and avant-garde, began during his lifetime and continued to grow after his death.

?He is one of the most dominant influences on post-1960 jazz saxophonists and has inspired an entire generation of jazz musicians.

?In 1965, he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.

?In 1972, A Love Supreme was certified gold by the RIAA for selling over half a million copies in Japan. This album, as well as My Favorite Things, was certified gold in the United States in 2001.

?In 1982 Coltrane was awarded a posthumous Grammy for “Best Jazz Solo Performance” on the album Bye Bye Blackbird, and in 1997, was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

?Coltrane was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

?His widow, Alice Coltrane, after several decades of seclusion, briefly regained a public profile before her death in 2007.

?Coltrane’s son, Ravi Coltrane, named after the Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar, who was greatly admired by Coltrane, has followed in his father’s footsteps and is a prominent contemporary saxophonist.

?A former home, the John Coltrane House in Philadelphia, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1999.

?His last home, the John Coltrane Home in the Dix Hills neighborhood of Huntington, New York, where he resided from 1964 until his death in 1967, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 29, 2007.

?His revolutionary use of multi-tonic systems in jazz has become a widespread composition and reharmonization technique known as “Coltrane changes”.

?In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed John Coltrane on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

?Coltrane’s tenor (Selmer Mark VI, serial number 125571, dated 1965) and soprano (Selmer Mark VI, serial number 99626, dated 1962) saxophones were auctioned on February 20, 2005, to raise money for the John Coltrane Foundation. The soprano raised $70,800 but the tenor remained unsold.

?He received many posthumous awards and recognitions, including canonization by the African Orthodox Church as Saint John William Coltrane.

?In 2007, Coltrane was awarded thePulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”

?After Coltrane’s death, congregants at the Yardbird Temple, in San Francisco, began worshipping Coltrane as God incarnate. The Temple was named for Charlie Parker, whom they equated to John the Baptist.

?The St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, San Francisco, which is fondly known as the “Coltrane church”, is the only African Orthodox church which incorporates Coltrane’s music and his lyrics as prayers in its liturgy. In order to become affiliated with the AOC, Coltrane was “demoted” from being God to a saint.

?In 1996, documentary filmmaker Alan Klingenstein made a short (26-minute) film called The Church of Saint Coltrane.

?Another documentary on Coltrane, featuring the church and presented by Alan Yentob, was produced for the BBC in 2004.

?Samuel G. Freedman writes in his New York Times article “Sunday Religion Inspired By Saturday Nights”, December 1, 2007, “the Coltrane church is not a gimmick or a forced alloy of nightclub music and ethereal faith. Its message of deliverance through divine sound is actually quite consistent with Coltrane’s own experience and message.” In the same article, he comments on Coltrane’s place in the canon of American music:

“In both implicit and explicit ways, Coltrane also functioned as a religious figure. Addicted to heroin in the 1950s, he quit cold turkey, and later explained that he had heard the voice of God during his anguishing withdrawal. In 1964, he recorded A Love Supreme, an album of original praise music in a free-jazz mode… In 1966, an interviewer in Japan asked Coltrane what he hoped to be in five years, and Coltrane replied, “A saint.”

?Coltrane is depicted as one of the ninety saints in the monumental Dancing Saints icon of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. The Dancing Saints icon is a 3,000-square-foot painting rendered in the Byzantine iconographic style that wraps around the entire church rotunda. The icon was executed by iconographer Mark Dukes, an ordained deacon at the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, who has painted other icons of Coltrane for the Coltrane Church.

?Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey included Coltrane on their list of historical black saints and made a “case for sainthood” for him in an article on their former website.

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  • Kevin W Thorbourne July 19, 2017 - 9:36 am Reply

    As a member of the advisory board for the Alice and John Coltrane Home initiatives to renovate the home, I hope we can recreate a place where Jazz lovers from all over the world can experience this sacred place where children were raised and great music was created.

  • Daniel O'Connell August 20, 2017 - 8:11 pm Reply

    My poem to John’s life. I hope you like it. Plz credit me on any reposts!
    Coltrane Time

    Part One: Visceral Arpeggios

    “The glissando ‘Trane
    Amelodicism breaking free
    Creating sheets of sound
    Taking harmonics out into space
    Prescient ears shielded his pain.

    Part Two: Free Atmosphere

    “He set on God’s pathway
    Pulsations finely tuned
    Comping and comping
    Living right, expressing, expressing
    He became a ‘Rara Avis’

    Part Three: Pre-Ascension

    “Time spirits aligned
    Einstein’s mind of God
    And Yogananda’s vision
    Midnite conceptions
    Rendered a Love supreme

    Part Four: New Zeitgeist Thing

    “Apocalypse, winds of change
    Blew far beyond meditations
    Never looking back
    John William Coltrane
    Searched for freedom.”

    (orig. by Daniel O’Connell 10:00pm 07.27.2017- 08.19.2017)

  • Dr. Joe O'Connell May 17, 2019 - 9:46 pm Reply

    Wow! Wonderful words, almost surpassing their subject! And what a distinguished name of the author! Namesake of the great Catholic Emancipatior of Ireland! Let me mail you a copy of my poetry book “Dingle Day; poems about music, women, drink, Kerry, cars and Spirituality” on Poetic Matrix Press.

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