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Remembering Charlie Parker, KC jazz legend, on his 101st birthday

Bird Lives sculpture in Kansas City

“Bird Lives” sculpture sits at the corner of 17th Street and The Paseo. Photo by the KCtoday Team.

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Charlie “Bird” Parker. The name may be familiar, but his accomplishments might not. This weekend — Aug. 29 — is his 101st birthday. As tribute, we’re detailing his biggest accomplishment + getting into the swing of things with ways to celebrate.

Parker was born in Kansas City in 1920. As a young musician, he cut his teeth in the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District. In an era where other KC musicians — Count Basie and Bennie Moten — were playing swing, Parker found a new sound.

What is bebop?

Bebop is a subgenre of jazz that includes complex chords, harmonies, and melodies. The name “bebop” comes from a vocalized imitation of the music — like an onomatopoeia. Parker became known for his mastery of bebop while in New York and rose to fame touring in Europe.

Charlie Parker’s nickname, “Bird”

One more thing. His nickname, “Bird,” has a few origin stories. One account says he loved to eat chicken, which he called, “yardbird.” Other reports suggest he hit a chicken with his touring van. Still, others attribute the “bird” symbolism to his freestyle way of living and playing music.

Ways to celebrate in KC

Want to celebrate the life, history, and rich culture Parker left behind? KC Jazz Alive has a weekend of activities planned. Here are a few ways you can “Spotlight Charlie Parker.”

See Spotlight Charlie Parker’s master event schedule.

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