Oprah Outs Armstrong; Irvin Mayfield Next?
January 26, 2013
Now that Oprah has revealed Louis Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs, all jazz music has been placed into question.
With this revelation, one can only wonder how authentic any musical performances are (or have been). The idea that any musician could have been “doping” forces one to re-assess the history of jazz music.
Dizzy Gillespie’s prolific cheeks are certainly the result of an extended use of human growth hormone, as obvious an example as Barry Bonds’ head. One wonders if be-bop may have been entirely the outcome of steroids, causing the musicians to hit an inordinate number of notes. It may be shocking for some listeners, but we may simply have to accept the idea that Charlie Parker was on performance-enhancing drugs of some kind.
Certainly, with the fact of Armstrong’s use, no one should be allowed into the Jazz Hall of Fame, if there were such a thing. Certainly not on the first ballot.
It hurts me to write this piece, although I know it may sound naïve to be so shocked. After all, James Baldwin wrote about such a possibility in “Sonny’s Blues,” a story about a musician who uses performance-enhancing drugs.
All we can do is call for testing of all jazz musicians. We cannot allow the authenticity of the music to be drawn into question. The notes must be hit authentically, not with chemical help.
We in New Orleans should be the first to test, just as we were the first to play the music. Thanks to the news of Louis Armstrong’s use, we can now look forward and make sure, as much as possible, that jazz is clean.
I propose that we begin in the French Quarter, on Bourbon Street, where even the casual passerby can scent the possibility of a urine test.
We must begin testing immediately, to preserve the integrity of the music.
Irvin Mayfield, we are coming for you.