This Day in Black History: Oct. 21, 1917

Jazz great Dizzy Gillespie was born in South Carolina.

Posted: 10/21/2012 07:00 AM EDT
Dizzy Gillespie

On Oct. 21, 1917, jazz trumpeter and bandleader Dizzy Gillespie was born in Cheraw, South Carolina.

Born John Birks Gillespie, the future legend was largely self-taught, learning to master the trumpet, trombone, cornet and piano as a child, after his father, a small-time bandleader, passed away.

Hailed as one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, Gillespie is credited for influencing the styles of other greats including Miles Davis, Fats Navarro and Jon Faddis.

A clear innovator, Gillespie was the first trumpeter to have his trumpets specially made so the bell was cocked in a 45-degree angle (a preference he discovered in 1953 after someone sat on his instrument, bending its bell). Gillespie's improvisational style is forever linked to the bebop and Afro-Cuban styles of the 1940s and 1950s.

In his later years, the musician continued to tour and record and notably led the United Nation Orchestra in the 1980s. On Jan. 6, 1993, he died of pancreatic cancer at age 75.

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(Photo: William Gottlieb/Redferns)

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