Django Reinhardt (1910-1953)

May 16 will mark the 63rd anniversary of Django’s death. He died at the very early age of 43. Django has long been a major influence on my music. It is quite remarkable just how popular his music remains throughout the world.

I first discovered Django’s music when I was about 18 years old. While listening to the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) late one night I happened on a show that featured several tracks from the various periods of Django’s development. I was particularly struck by his “late period” which is generally considered the time shortly before his death (1949-1953). It was at this point that the influence of bebop was coming to the fore in his playing and compositions.

Django Reinhardt (first encounter)

I was busy whispering a detailed explanation of Schopenhauer’s Philosophy of the “Will” into the eager ear of a young lady in the backseat of my 56′ Ford when it happened. Believe me, it took quite a jolt to disengage my attention at that exact moment. After all, I was only 18 years old and my red corpuscles were pounding out four to a bar like Gene Krupa in overdrive. But even though the steamed-up windows it was clear to see. I was in love.
“What is that?” I shrieked as I jumped into the front seat and turned up the volume of the car radio. “Who is that guitar player? I love it.”

When the song ended the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) announcer proclaimed it was “Jango Rinehart.” I searched through the glove box to find a pen or pencil to jot down the name.

The very next day I piloted my Ford 70 miles due south to a section of Minneapolis known as Dinky Town to rummage through the record bins.
An indolent clerk peered up from his intense perusal of a catalog displaying every model and type of hookah known to civilization just long enough to correct me on the name with a condescending sneer. “The name is spelled like this,” he said, as he scrawled Django Reinhardt onto a coffee-stained napkin.

Armed with several Django records I began my study of his fretwork. The music was a bit old-timey for my taste at that time and songs like “The Sheik of Araby” didn’t exactly turn my crank but the guitar playing was unlike anything I had ever heard.

There are watershed moments in every life and this was one for me. To say Django influenced my music would be a complete understatement. I still listen to his recordings regularly and play his music every week.
But all these years later, I can’t even remember the girl’s name.

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