A Note from the Editor, Jon Newsom
The following recollections and thoughts about Gerry Mulligan's life and musical career are excerpted from many hours of a taped autobiography by Gerry conducted by Ken Poston in 1995. Gerry's wife, Franca, has permitted the Library of Congress to release portions of this autobiography for the first time, as part of The Gerry Mulligan Collection at the Library of Congress, Performing Arts Encyclopedia.
A brief biographical sketch of Gerry’s life reveals its many facets. Indeed, there is so much covered in this autobiography that much important material will have to be included in updated versions of this website over the coming years and months.
Each excerpt is accompanied by photographs as appropriate. We also plan to offer annotated transcripts of Gerry's recordings with Ken Poston and others, together with translations into several languages. The transcripts have been edited in the way that Gerry had begun to do himself and as we believe he would have wanted them to appear in print. Facts have been checked, persons, places, and works identified, and syntax occasionally corrected when it facilitates a reading of his words without benefit of hearing the expressive quality of his speaking, which usually makes his meaning clear. Gerry did not intend this to be a literary testimony but presented it in the spirit of a teacher who had much to tell young and aspiring artists about his art and the sometimes painful experiences of life.
There are ideas about music. There are some joyful reminiscences. We have concluded this series of excerpts, for those who wish to hear or read them as a sequence, with his happy memories of meeting his wife, Franca, while he was making a recording in Milan with Astor Piazzolla. But there are darker times he also wished to talk about, especially with young people facing the temptations of heroin and other devastating illegal drugs. He had been a heroin user during an era when rehabilitation was even more difficult than it is today, and when users were sometimes left to die of overdoses for fear of possible penalties that might descend upon anyone even circumstantially connected with illegal drugs.
Eventually, the entire series of recordings for the autobiography will be available at the Library of Congress for scholarly research.
We provide a brief commentary before each excerpt.