John William Coltrane was born on September 23, 1926, and died on July 17, 1967. He was an American jazz saxophonist and music composer. Coltrane worked in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career and helped pioneer the use of modes, being one of the players at the forefront of free jazz. He led more than 50 recording sessions and collaborated and appeared on many albums with other musicians, including trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk. Coltrane remains one of the most influential saxophonists in music history, receiving numerous posthumous awards.
John William Coltrane
September 23, 1926
July 17, 1967 (age 40)
John William Coltrane was born on September 23, 1926, in his parent’s apartment at 200 Hamlet Avenue in Hamlet, North Carolina. He grew up in High Point, North Carolina, and attended William Penn High School. In December 1938, Coltrane’s father, aunt, and grandparents died within a few months, nearly leaving him orphaned. He was raised by his mother and a close cousin. A few years later, in June 1943, he moved to Philadelphia, and in September, his mother bought him his first saxophone. Coltrane played clarinet and the alto horn in a community band before beginning alto saxophone in high school.
To avoid being drafted into the army, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy on August 6, 1945. He was trained as an apprentice seaman at Sampson Naval Training Station in upstate New York before being shipped to Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed at Manana Barracks. By the time he reached Hawaii, his musical talent was recognized. He became one of the few Navy men to serve as a musician without being granted a musician’s rating when entering the Navy’s swing band titled “The Melody Masters.” The Melody Masters were an all-white band, and Coltrane was treated merely as a guest performer. But by the end of his service, he had assumed a leadership role and led the band’s first recordings in Hawaii on July 13, 1946.
In 1961, Coltrane’s contract with Atlantic was bought by Impulse! Records. He recorded most of his albums for Impulse! Records at music engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. During his later years, Coltrane showed an interest in the avant-garde jazz of Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, and Ornette Coleman. He also championed many young free jazz musicians like Archie Shepp.
Coltrane receives the American Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, and the World War II Victory Medals.
Coltrane releases an album titled “Kind of Blue,” one of his most famous albums.
Coltrane puts out an album titled “A Love Supreme,” his most popular album to date.
Coltrane receives a posthumous Pulitzer citation that describes his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship, and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”
Why We Love John Coltrane
He was one of the greatest musicians
Coltrane has notably been named one of the greatest musicians of the modern era. He played with other great artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis.
He was enormously popular
Coltrane received worldwide fame. For example, he was popular in the United States, France, Britain, Germany, and Japan. In fact, “Love Supreme” was certified gold in Japan in 1972 after selling over 500,000 units.
He has an impressive discography
Coltrane recorded 45 studio albums, 23 compilation albums, and 19 singles during his life. Some of his greatest hits include “Giant Steps” (1960), “My Favorite Things” (1961), “Impressions” (1963), and “A Love Supreme” (1965), his most acclaimed record.
5 Surprising Facts
He played several instruments
Besides being a professional at the saxophone, Coltrane studied alto sax, clarinet, and tenor sax.
He had musical influences
According to Coltrane, his musical influences include iconic artists like Lester Young and Johnny Hodges.
His first gig was at 19
Coltrane performed his first professional gig in a cocktail lounge trio with piano and guitar when he was 19.
He had a brief drug addiction
In the 1950s, Coltrane was addicted to heroin but quit cold turkey and expressed how he had heard the voice of God during his withdrawal and became a deeply religious man.
He was always traveling
Coltrane was commonly known as a traveling band member, spending time in many great jazz bands during the 1940s to 50s.
John Coltrane FAQs
Who did Coltrane influence?
Coltrane influenced rock mavericks like Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix. Miles Davis said that having Coltrane in his band was like hiring “three saxophone players in one.”
Was John Coltrane a genius?
Coltrane was a true virtuoso. Unlike Mozart, though, he wasn’t born a musical genius. Instead, he practiced, practiced, practiced.
What is the meaning of Coltrane?
Coltrane is a masculine name of British origin. It means ‘frisky’ or ‘young horse,’ coming from the word ‘colt,’ a male horse younger than four years old.
John Coltrane’s birthday dates