Archie Shepp was born in 1937 in Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
He grew up in Philadelphia, studied piano and saxophone and attended high school in Germantown; he went to college, became involved with theatre, met writers and poets, among them, Leroy Jones and wrote: «The Communist», an allegorical play about the situation of black Americans. In the late fifties, Archie Shepp also met the most radical musicians of the time: Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jimmy Garrison, Ted Curson, Beaver Harris ... his political consciousness found an expression in plays and theatrical productions which barely allowed him to make a living. In the beginning sixties he met Cecil Taylor and did two recordings with him which were determining.
In 1962 he signed his first record with Bill Dixon as co-leader. During the following year, he created the New York Contemporary Five with John Tchichai, made four records for Fontana, Storyville and Savoy and travelled to Europe with this group. Starting in August 1964, he worked with Impulse and made 17 records among which, Four For Trane, Fire Music, and Mama Too Tight, some of the classics of Free Music. His collaboration with John Coltrane materialized further with Ascension in 1965, a real turning point in Avant- Garde music. His militancy was evidenced by his participation in the creation of the Composers Guild with Paul and Carla Bley, Sun RA, Roswell Rudd and Cecil Taylor.