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Dizzy Gillespie

Born: October 21, 1917 | Died: January 6, 1993    Primary Instrument: Trumpet

Dizzy Gillespie

John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of the 20th century and one of the prime architects of the bebop movement in jazz. Nicknamed “Dizzy” because of his zany on-stage antics, Gillespie, a brass virtuoso, set new standards for trumpet players with his innovative, “jolting rhythmic shifts and ceaseless harmonic explorations” on the instrument during the 1940's, which ushered in a definitive change in American jazz music from swing to bebop.

Gillespie, the last of nine children, was born in Cheraw, South Carolina, in 1917 to James and Lottie Gillespie. His father was a bricklayer, pianist and band leader. James Gillespie kept all the instruments from his band in the family home, so the future trumpet great was surrounded by musical instruments from childhood, including his father's large upright piano - James tore down one of the walls of the house to get the piano inside. James demanded that all his children practice instruments. However, none of them except John cared much for music. James died when John Birks was ten, so he never heard his youngest son play trumpet; he did hear him practice piano, since John began playing the intrument at a very early age....
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Awards:

New Star Award, Esquire Magazine (1944); Handel Medallion, City of New York (1972); Paul Robeson Award, Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies (1972); Performs "Salt Peanuts" with President Carter at White House Jazz Concert (1978); Inducted into Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame (1982); Lifetime Achievement Award, National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) (1989); National Medal of Arts, President Bush (1989); Duke Ellington Award, Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (1989); Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1989); Kennedy Center Honors Award (1990); Fourteen honorary degrees, including Ph.D., Rutgers University (1972); Ph.D., Chicago Conservatory of Music (1978); Awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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