John William Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, on September 23, 1926, and from the moment he picked up a saxophone in his early teens, he showed immediate talent, according to Biography. In the 1940s and 50s he worked with such jazz giants as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie (above, right), and especially Miles Davis, with whom he shared a collaboration lasting nearly five years that is one of the most important in the history of jazz, per the John Coltrane website and jazzwise. For part of that time, Coltrane was addicted to heroin.
In the liner notes for “A Love Supreme,” Coltrane explained how in 1957 he experienced “a spiritual awakening” and asked God “to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music,” per AlbumLinerNotes.com. This spiritual awakening coincided with getting clean from a six-year-long heroin addiction, during which he said he’d heard the voice of God as he suffered through the withdrawal process, according to the CBC. Coltrane went on to form his own groundbreaking quartet and would tragically die in 1967 of liver cancer at age 40, per Biography. But his dense, improvisational music would continue to inspire, and would eventually lead to his canonization.
If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).