Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by Sun Ship, Mar 4, 2004.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
A brief biography
by Michael Fitzgerald
Roland Kirk was born on August 7, 1935 (the frequently seen 1936 birthdate is incorrect). He lost his sight at an early age. "When I was one or two a nurse came into work drunk or high or mad at somebody and she slipped and put too much medicine in my eyes." Dreams played an important part in Kirk's life and musical development. He dreamed of playing two saxophones simultaneously and immediately set out to make this a reality. He found two antique saxophones in a pawn shop and christened them the manzello (a derivative of the soprano saxophone) and the stritch (a derivative of the straight alto saxophone). Along with the tenor, these comprised the "triple threat" mentioned in his first recording. Kirk was also a highly innovative flutist, using many unorthodox techniques in his playing, especially simultaneously singing and playing, his most famous example of which is "You Did It, You Did It" from We Free Kings, his first release for Mercury.
While the techniques that Kirk used were not his in origin (circular breathing is a necessity in playing the Australian aboriginal didjeridu and several performers played three clarinets at once as early as the 1920's), he brought musicality to these novelty tricks.
Another dream led to his adding the name "Rahsaan" around 1970.
Rahsaan was an activist in getting support for what he termed "Black Classical Music." He participated in several takeovers of television talk shows during which he would demand more exposure for black jazz artists.
His wife Dorthaan relates, "After suffering a cerebral vascular accident in November, 1975, it seemed that he would not regain the use of his right hand after several months of therapy. He, being the determined and strong-willed person he was, devised a method HIMSELF that enabled him to play his instruments with the use of only his left hand." Actively performing and recording, he made several tours and albums after this first stroke. He suffered another stroke and died in Bloomington, Indiana on December 5, 1977 at the age of 41. The Vibration Society, a tribute band, existed for a time after his death.
Sometimes, those with eyes are blind and those who are blind, have vision.
A Blind Visionary
A Sightless Prophet
Separate names with a comma.