The wild ride of the most romanticized icon in jazz is thrillingly recounted in this first major biography.
From his emergence in the 1950s — when an uncannily beautiful young man from Oklahoma appeared on the West Coast to become, seemingly overnight, the prince of “cool” jazz — until his violent, drug-related death in Amsterdam in 1988, Chet Baker lived a life that has become an American myth.
Now, drawing on hundreds of interviews and previously untapped sources, James Gavin gives a hair-raising account of the trumpeter’s dark journey.
The story of Baker’s demise — a heretofore unsolved riddle — is revealed here at last. So is the truth behind his tormented childhood, the pain of which haunted his entire life. Gavin explores the birth of the melancholy trumpet playing, the fragile tenor voice, and the otherworldly personal aura that catapulted Baker to fame. Sexy, angelic, needy, and forbidding all at once, Baker became known as the James Dean of jazz. Like Dean, he struck a note of menace in the staid fifties: behind his ultracool, handsome façade lay something ominous, unspoken. The mystery drove both sexes crazy. But his only real romance, apart from music, was with drugs. And in mesmerizing detail, Gavin narrates the harrowing spiral of dependency down which Baker tumbled, dragging with him those who dared get close.
From his golden promise to his eventual destruction, Baker’s life mirrored America’s fall from postwar innocence. Deep in a Dream is the portrait of a musician whose singular artistry and mystique have never lost their power to enchant and seduce us.