Jazz Icon John Coltrane

Hamlet-born John Coltrane as seen on the cover of his 1964 album Black Pearls. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

Hamlet-born John Coltrane as seen on the cover of his 1964 album Black Pearls. Photo from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

On July 17, 1967, legendary Jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane died. Born in 1926 in the small Richmond County town of Hamlet, Coltrane and his family family moved to High Point by the time he was 3-years-old. Coltrane’s love of music developed early, and he played both clarinet and saxophone in high school.

After graduating from high school, Coltrane moved to Philadelphia to attend music school. He made his professional debut in 1945 and collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis in milestone recordings before forming his own group in 1960. Though he died at age 40, Coltrane released nearly 50 studio albums and almost 20 singles during the course of his career.

He is perhaps remembered best for spanning genres and audiences and both establishing avant-garde jazz while also achieving popular success. One measure of Coltrane’s significance is the fact that he has been the subject of at least four biographies.

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