“The reason you fight is for the truth to come out and people to look at it.”
Renowned musician and jazz great, Dave Brubeck, died recently at the age of 91. While he lived a long life, his death has deeply affected many people, not only for the legendary music he made, but also for who he was. One of the things Brubeck was known for was standing up to racism, and he played with interracial bands throughout his career, and was known to give up gigs where the black members of his band were forbidden to perform with him.
There are some who will miss his music and will play it over and over in these days following his death as a way to honor his memory (and as I write this upstairs sits my dad’s “Time Out” album in vinyl on which his famed piece “Take Five” appears), while others will remember the legacy he helped to build, that music helps build bridges and unite people and should never be used to separate us.
An illuminating interview on his life can be found on the PBS website. In it, Brubeck talks about one occasion when he wasn’t allowed to play a university gig unless Eugene Wright, the black bass player in his band, was replaced by a white performer:
“I wasn’t allowed to play in some universities in the United States and out of twenty-five concerts, twenty-three were cancelled unless I would substitute my black bass player for my old white bass player, which I wouldn’t do. They wouldn’t let us go on with Gene [Wright] and I wouldn’t go on without him. So there was a stalemate and [we were] in a gymnasium, a big basketball arena on a big campus. And the kids were starting to riot upstairs. So the President of the school had things pushing him from every side: The kids stamping on the floor upstairs, me refusing to go on unless I could go on with my black bass player… So we just stalled and the bus driver came and said, ‘Dave, hold out. Don’t go on. The president is talking to the governor and I think things are going your way.’ And the Governor says, ‘You’d better let them go on.’
So we held on and the president of the college came in and he said, ‘Now you can go on with the understanding that you’ll keep Eugene Wright in the background where he can’t be seen too well.’ And I told Eugene, ‘Your microphone is off and I want you to use my announcement microphone so you gotta come in front of the band to play your solo.’ Well the audience went crazy. We integrated the school that night. The kids wanted it; the President wanted it; the teachers wanted it. The President of the college knew he might lose his funding from the state. So here’s the reason you fight is for the truth to come out and people to look at it.”
We’ll miss you, Dave.