Charles Mingus, one of the giants of the world of jazz, was not only a renowned musician and composer, but he was also a civil rights activist. Born on an Army base in southern Arizona, Mingus was known for his ability to capture the soulful nature of hard bop while basing much of his music on the tradition of Black gospel music. A bass player who opened new vistas in the world of jazz, Mingus was also known for his often formidable temper, which earned him his nickname, “The Angry Man of Jazz.” He was adamant about not compromising his musical integrity, a position that caused a number of on-stage eruptions. Nonetheless, he was considered a brilliant composer. He is often viewed by musicians as an heir of Duke Ellington, a bandleader who Mingus greatly admired. Another noted musician, Dizzy Gillespie, once said that Mingus reminded him of a young Ellington, primarily for his organizational skills. Mingus died in 1979, at age 56, of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
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(Photo: John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images)