As a result of a car accident as a teenager, Parker became addicted to morphine and, in turn, heroin. Contemporary musicians took similar drugs, hoping to emulate his playing. Through the 1940s, Parker‚Äôs career flourished. He recorded some of his most famous tunes, including ‚Äò‚ÄòBillie‚Äôs Bounce‚Äô‚Äô and ‚Äò‚ÄòKoko.‚Äô‚Äô Yet, he also careened erratically between incredible playing and extreme bouts of alcohol and drug abuse. This deteriorated in 1946, when after the recording of the song ‚Äò‚ÄòLover Man,‚Äô‚Äô Parker became inebriated in his hotel room, set fire to his mattress, and ran through the hotel lobby wearing only his socks. Parker was arrested and committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, where he stayed for 6 months. This stay inspired the song ‚Äò‚ÄòRelaxin at Camarillo (1947).‚Äô‚Äô
The track Relaxin at Camarillo is available on YouTube and it has a wonderfully rambling swing-backed sound. As far as I know, it is the only song about a stay at a mental hospital, but as musicians have had more than their fair share of hospital stays, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were any others, so do let me know if you know of any others.
By the way, the full article on the neurological problems of jazz legends is available online and has six biographies of jazz greats. There’s also a fascinating anecdote related by the author regarding a possible emperor’s new clothes moment during Thelonious Monk’s mental decline:
A personal anecdote: The author‚Äôs father, a professional jazz trumpeter, attended an outdoor concert in which Monk simply stared at the keyboard for the 16 bars of his solo but ultimately returned to playing as the next soloist took his course. The audience applauded wildly, assuming that if Monk was thinking through the course but not actually playing, then it must have been astounding, even immanent and transcending a human‚Äôs ability to perform much less understand. In retrospect, Monk‚Äôs mental status was disordered enough [whether dominated by depressed mood or confusion] that he must have been unable to perform for that verse.
Likely a moment of confusion but I prefer the version where the internal music soars above Monk’s declining skills.