Finding Chet Baker: Depression
Lately the Jazz stations have been featuring Chet Baker instrumental recordings. Chesney
Henry Baker though not a scholar was born in Yale ---- Yale Oklahoma. He saw Yale frequently in his career
---- Yale locks on a prison cell, as the numerous drug related arrests would attest.
I was still developing my “Jazz chops” in the 60’s during one of
the peaks as Chet Baker had an up and down career due to this addiction. The haunting vocal inflections
seemed (to me) as someone who was searching. Again a condition I could relate to in exorcising the demons
of Depression. A friend remarked, “I don’t have Depression; I give Depression” ---- I
responded “the truth only hurts if you allow it to do so”. Blond, blue eyed Chet a
Hollywood “bad boy” in the mold of James Dean, Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, appearing in both musical film
shorts and features could have had a career in motion pictures opting instead for Jazz. A gifted trumpeter,
though more critically acknowledged as a vocalist ---- the signature recording of “My Funny Valentine” depicts
both talents. A typical pose would be Chet in jeans with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the left sleeve
to the shoulder. A perpetual hit on the starlet, socialite circuit as the sexy Renaissance man before the term became popular.
The more liberal drug laws in Europe were more suited for this lifestyle.
At age 58 although appearing older, Chet died in May 1988 after a classified drug induced fall to
the street from his room at the Hotel Prins Hendrik in Amsterdam Netherlands. A plaque at the Hotel memorializes
Chet Baker who in the midst of new critical acclaim had finally found what he was searching for ---- himself.
My favorite Chet Baker recording is “Let’s Get Lost” (everyone
likes “My Funny Valentine”. I narrowly missed seeing a performance due to more pressing issues
a couple of months before his death). The poem “Let’s Get Lost” was penned ten years
or so after his demise; a Psychiatrist friend was conflicted as to whether this was a beautiful poignant love or an ominous
That was more than ten years
ago, so we can rule out suicide ---- probably Depression: A cry in the night that no one hears or cares.
Admittedly, I should not minify Depression, a condition many have, yet refuse to acknowledge since it is a mental illness.
Take it from one who is and has been there, Depression must be owned and treated.
Let’s Get Lost
away from emptiness is the serenity of nowhere
Straight ahead no turns only reflective
pauses as signs
Comforting embraces mark the resting places
For troubled mind and soul
Passion resides there as well
It must be taken generously, consumed whole
path of mishaps aftermath
Found only when bound together hopelessly
Never wanting to be discovered
Hidden from sorrow,
just before destiny
To find the way you must be lost
e Hill ©