Charlie Haden, legendary jazz bassist and composer.
Legendary jazz bassist and composer Charlie Haden died on Friday in Los Angeles at the age of 76.
We speak with legendary bass player, composer and political activist, Charlie Haden. In the late 1950s he played in Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking quartet which changed the shape and sound of jazz.
Over the years, Haden has won countless music awards, including two Grammys. And he has played with many other jazz greats including John Coltrane, Don Cherry and Archie Shepp.
Charlie Haden has also been one of the most politically outspoken jazz musicians. During the middle of the Vietnam War, he and Carla Bley formed the Liberation Music Orchestra. The group’s debut album mixed songs from the Spanish Civil War, anti-war songs and a tribute to Che Guevera. In 1971 he was jailed in Portugal for dedicating a song to the black liberation movements of Mozambique and Angola.
In 2006 Haden re-formed the Liberation Music Orchestra to respond to the Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq. He titled the album "Not In Our Name." Charlie Haden joined us in our Firehouse Studio.
This is a rush transcript from September 1, 2006. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Charlie Haden recently joined us in our Firehouse studio to talk about his music and politics. I asked him to talk about how he began playing music.
CHARLIE HADEN: My parents were on the Grand Ole Opry. They traveled all over the country singing hillbilly music. That’s what they called it back then. They were friends with Roy Acuff and the Delmore Brothers and the Carter Family. And all of my brothers and sisters who were older than me started on the show, after they were big enough to hold a guitar and sing.
And I was born in Shenandoah, Iowa. I was being rocked to sleep by my mother, humming folksongs to me, and all of a sudden I started humming the harmony. I was 22 months old. And she said, "Charlie, when you started humming the harmony with me, I knew you were ready for the show." And so I started on the show at 22 months old as Cowboy Charlie, and I sang every day. On the radio we had two shows a week, in the morning and in the afternoon. And I did that up until the time I was fifteen years old.
AMY GOODMAN: From when you were before two years old —
CHARLIE HADEN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — to 15.
CHARLIE HADEN: Right. And I yodeled and I sang, and you know. And we all sang harmony.
AMY GOODMAN: How many of you were there?
CHARLIE HADEN: Well, there was —- I had two older brothers and an older sister that were on the main show. And later, I had a younger brother and a younger sister, but -—
AMY GOODMAN: Did this bring together family or divide you?
CHARLIE HADEN: What was that?
AMY GOODMAN: Singing, playing music.
CHARLIE HADEN: Oh, that brought us together. That was one of the most wonderful things about bringing our family together. We all got together every morning to decide what the songs were that we were going to sing for the radio show. Just like you prepare your show, that’s the way we prepared our show. And my dad would pick out the songs that we’re going to sing. And sometimes we had a radio studio in whatever house we were in, and he would crank the crank that would go into the radio stations, and that would let them know we were ready to go on the air. And sometimes we would go into the studio in Springfield, Missouri at KWTO — Keep Watching the Ozarks — and we would do the show from the studio. My dad was the MC. He gave all the commercials — you know, Wait’s Green Mountain cough syrup, Sparkalite cereal, Allstate Insurance. I mean, we had all kinds of sponsors. We got mailbags from all over the country. And it was really a great experience for me, not only musically, but being close to my family and devoted to this music. And my life was filled with music, and I learned so much about harmony and melody doing those shows.
AMY GOODMAN: You were singing then, but you don’t sing now.
CHARLIE HADEN: Well, I don’t sing now, because I had polio when I was 15, bulbar polio. This was when the epidemic was happening. And I was lucky that it didn’t affect my lungs or my legs. It went to my face and kind of paralyzed my vocal chords, and I wasn’t able to sing. And they said I was very lucky that I would get over it, which I did. But at the same time my dad had decided to retire from entertainment and start a fishing lodge down in Lake Bull Shoals in the Ozarks. He was a fisherman, so he built this fishing lodge.
And, you know, in the meantime I had been listening to a lot of — this was before TV. Radio was the big deal. Everyone listened to the radio. I never went away from the radio. I listened to classical music. I listened to jazz. I listened to everything. And I started becoming interested in the sounds of jazz. And I went to a concert of Jazz at the Philharmonic when we lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and I saw Charlie Parker play and Billie Holiday sing and Lester Young play, and that did it. I said, "That’s what I want to do." And I started working toward that goal and turned down a scholarship to Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and decided to go to Los Angeles and attend a school there. It was called Westlake College of Modern Music. This was 1956, and they supposedly had jazz there. That’s why I wanted to go. But why I really wanted to go to LA was to find my favorite pianist. His name was Hampton Hawes, and he lived in LA.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you find him?
CHARLIE HADEN: I found him. I was doing my homework one night — early one morning at 3:00 in the morning at Tiny Naylor’s on La Brea and Sunset Boulevard with carhops and everything, and a guy walked in that I knew to be Red Mitchell, who was the bass player with Hampton Hawes. So I got to know him. I went up to him, and he said, "Come over to my house, and let’s hang out." And I went over to his house. And one day he called me, and he said, "I’m working this gig with Art Pepper, and could you come and sit in, because I got a recording session. I can’t finish the gig, and I know he’ll hire you if he hears you." So that’s what I did. Sonny Clark, legendary pianist, was playing that night. Art hired me. I came the next night, and Hampton Hawes was playing piano. And that was like a thrill.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve had a long relationship with Ornette Coleman right up until today, the time of this interview. You’ve just spent two evenings with him.
CHARLIE HADEN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how you met and the kind of work, the music that you’ve played together.
CHARLIE HADEN: I heard Ornette play the first time at a club called the Hague. I was on a night off. I was playing at the Hillcrest with Paul Bley, and Carla Bley was his wife. That’s how I met Carla. And I went to the Hague. Gerry Mulligan was playing there with his band, and this guy comes up to the stage and asks to sit in. They tell him to come up, and he got his alto. It was a plastic — white plastic alto saxophone. And he starts to play, and the whole room lit up for me. It was so brilliant. And as soon as he started to play, they asked him to stop. So he put the horn back in the case and started out the back door.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did they ask him to stop?
CHARLIE HADEN: Well, you know, Ornette’s music was completely different than traditional jazz. It was free improvisation. It was his way of improvising. It was improvising and creating a new chord structure to the song that you were playing. That’s the way he played, and a lot of musicians didn’t feel close to that, and it was new to them. And so, they asked him to stop playing. And so, I missed him. He would disappear into the night.
I found out the next night at the Hillcrest from my drummer, from Paul Bley’s drummer, Lennie McBrowne. I said, "I heard this guy play, who was brilliant, and played like the human voice." And he said, "Was he playing a plastic horn?" And I said, "Yeah." He said, "That was Ornette Coleman. I’ll introduce you to him." He brought him in.
We met, and I told him how great he played. And he said, "Thank you." He said, "Not many people tell me that." I mean, he said, "Let’s go play." And we went over to his house, and we played for three days. And then we started rehearsing with Don Cherry and Billy Higgins. And then a guy from Atlantic Records came to one of the rehearsals, Nesuhi Ertegun, and wanted us to make a record. And we made two albums: The Shape of Jazz to Come and Tomorrow Is the Question! and Change of the Century.
AMY GOODMAN: So all these very future-looking — The Shape of Jazz to Come.
CHARLIE HADEN: And Change of the Century.
AMY GOODMAN: What did you mean — The Shape of Jazz to Come?
CHARLIE HADEN: Well, that was Ornette’s title, and he always had this — you know, this vision. He’s a real visionary in his music. And he has these great titles to his songs and to his albums. And so, The Shape of Jazz to Come, that’s what it was. There were several revolutions, changes in the world of jazz, you know. Louis Armstrong and some other people started it out. And then there was the swing era with the big bands. And then Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie came along and created bebop on 52nd Street in the ’40s. That was a revolution in the language of jazz. And then, when Ornette and Don and I and Billy came to New York, that was the next one.
AMY GOODMAN: You have four records/CDs out with the Liberation Music Orchestra. Can you talk about the first one, how it all began, how you established this orchestra, why its name?
CHARLIE HADEN: I established it from my concerns about what was going on in the world because of the Nixon administration and the war in Vietnam, and I started thinking about, "I’ve gotta do something about this." And I had some music from the Spanish Civil War that was in my collection, and I started thinking about — maybe I can do — I mean, I had never done this before, you know? And maybe I could do something where I can play some political songs from the Spanish Civil War. I can write a song about my hero Che Guevara and call it "Song for Che." I can write a piece about the Chicago Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, where people were, you know, beaten on the street and jailed.
And so, I called up a colleague of mine, Carla Bley, who I had known since 1957 and who’s a great arranger and great composer, and I said, "I want to do this, and will you write arrangements?" And she said, "Let’s go over the music." And we got together. I played her all the music. She wrote some pieces. I wrote some pieces. And we wanted to voice it like the old recordings from the Spanish Republican Band. They had like this brass band, where they did all these songs, and it had French horn, tuba, trumpets, saxophones. So that’s what we did. And I got all of my guys that I played jazz with, you know, for many years — Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Paul Motian, a great — Roswell Rudd — and we asked them if they wanted to do this, and they said yes. And so, you know, Carla wrote the arrangements.
We had a little rehearsal at —- first of all, I had to find a record company, because every company I went to with this idea said no, because of the politics. And I finally found a guy. His name was Bob Thiele, and he had been producing a lot of John Coltrane on Impulse. He worked for Impulse, which was ABC. And I went up to his office, and I said, "This is what I want to do." And he said, "Well, it’s a great, you know, project." He said, "Let’s do it. I don’t know if it’ll be released, but let’s do it." And so, he rented Judson Hall on 57th Street in New York, and I knew some Abraham Lincoln vets that had fought in Spain -—
AMY GOODMAN: And you write in the record, the album I have here — thanks to our producer, Mike Burke, who is a real connoisseur of all you’ve done — you write about the Spanish Civil War, and you talk about how approximately 1,600 of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade came back alive. You invited survivors to you concert?
CHARLIE HADEN: That lived in the New York area. And I called one of the men that I knew, and he got in touch with everybody else, and they brought their wives. And it was a very mind-opening experience for me to read about the Spanish Civil War, because, you know, Chamberlain and Roosevelt remained neutral when Franco was the dictator in Spain and there was a revolution, and they didn’t help the Spanish Republic to fight Franco. And so, as a result, people from all over the world, countries from all over the world volunteered to come help the Spanish Republic fight fascism. And they lost. And if they hadn’t lost, fascism would have been defeated, and there probably wouldn’t have been a World War II. You know, Hitler had the opportunity to try out all of his new weapons during the Spanish Civil War.
And the thing that really moved me, too, was the music that came out of that. You know, when you have people fighting to survive a life struggle, you know, you hear music from those people that’s very deep and very moving. And in this case, they were all Spanish folksongs, that new words were added to them for the wartime.
AMY GOODMAN: So this record was released, your first.
CHARLIE HADEN: After I went to Los Angeles — I lived in New York then, and I flew to LA — and I presented one of the executives with some information that was kind of misleading, but he didn’t know it. And I said, you know — they were worried about the word "liberation," because of the Liberation Front in Vietnam and all the things that were associated with that, you know, at the time. And I said, "You know, this is a very hip word, 'liberation.' That’s what the United States is built on, you know." And I said, "And if you don’t let me release this record, a rock group is going to steal this title." He said, "Oh, God! I never thought of that. Okay!" So, it was that easy. You know, it was plane fare all the way to LA. And then I had got them to release the album. After it was released, there was a lot of controversy about it, and a lot of the jazz critics, the conservative jazz critics, put it down. And it was kind of lost in the shuffle. But it became a cult kind of classic.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about playing in Portugal? When was that? ’71?
CHARLIE HADEN: It was 1971. I had just had triplet daughters. And —
AMY GOODMAN: Their names?
CHARLIE HADEN: Rachel, Petra and Tanya.
AMY GOODMAN: They’re all musicians?
CHARLIE HADEN: They’re all musicians now. And my son Josh was three years old. And —
AMY GOODMAN: Aren’t you going to be recording — going back to country music and playing with all of them?
CHARLIE HADEN: I’m going down to Nashville and doing a country record, back to, you know, where I came from. And they’re all going to come with me.
AMY GOODMAN: With the triplets and your son?
CHARLIE HADEN: And my wife Ruth is coming.
AMY GOODMAN: Who’s a great singer.
CHARLIE HADEN: Who’s a great singer and producer. She produces everything I do, with me. And there’s a lot of people in Nashville that know about my family that really want to be a part of this. And it’s going to be great. I’ve been wanting to do this for so long.
AMY GOODMAN: So Petra, she’s with the Foo Fighters.
CHARLIE HADEN: She’s with the Foo Fighters. And Rachel is with a band called the Rentals. She’s on tour now. And the three of them sing together better than the Dixie Chicks. You know, they’re great. But Tanya right now is taking care of my brand new grandson, but they still sing, and they’re really looking forward to going to Nashville.
AMY GOODMAN: And Tanya’s married to Jack Black. They went to high school together?
CHARLIE HADEN: That’s right. And they have a new baby, Sam Haden Black. And Ruth and I are going to see them in just a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: I don’t want to keep you, but I also do want to keep you. And your son is with Spain?
CHARLIE HADEN: My son had a band called Spain, which made four recordings and was really critically acclaimed all over the world. When he goes — even here, his concerts are sold out. And now, then, he just did a solo record. And, you know, the record business, because of downloading, etc., is really at a low right now, and it’s really hard for artists to get their music out. And so, now he’s going to put it out himself. And it’s really, really beautiful.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, now I want to go back to you. 1971, had you had your kids yet?
CHARLIE HADEN: Yes. They were born October 11, and Ornette called and said we have a chance to go on this Newport Jazz Festival tour of Europe with Duke Ellington’s band; Miles Davis’s band; Dexter Gordon; the Giants of Jazz, which included Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt, Al McKibben, Art Blakey. I mean, I can’t believe that we were all on tour together. And I was with Ornette’s quartet, which was Ornette, and Dewey Redman was playing tenor saxophone, and Ed Blackwell was playing drums. And I said, "Well, you know, we just had these girls, man. And I gotta stay here and help, you know." And —
AMY GOODMAN: Not just girls. Triplets.
CHARLIE HADEN: Triplets, yeah. But anyway —
AMY GOODMAN: Did you know you were having triplets?
CHARLIE HADEN: We did, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: From early on?
CHARLIE HADEN: My ex-wife, their mother, we — back then, they didn’t have ultrasound. And there was an x-ray, which we were very concerned about, but they saw three, and they said, "You’ve got three."
AMY GOODMAN: How late into the pregnancy?
CHARLIE HADEN: This was eight months.
AMY GOODMAN: Eight months into the pregnancy, you learned you were having triplets?
CHARLIE HADEN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so, Ornette said, "Well, can her mother come out and help, because this tour is really important, you know?" And I said, "Okay." So we got it all fixed up, and I went to Europe. But I saw on the itinerary before we left that we were playing in Portugal, and I didn’t agree with the government there. It was a kind of a fascist government. They had colonies in Guinea-Bissau, in Angola and Mozambique, and they were systematically wiping out the Black race, you know? And so I called Ornette, and I said, "You know, I don’t want to play in Portugal." And he said, "Charlie, we’ve already signed the contract. We’ve gotta play. It’s the last country on the concert tour. Figure out — maybe you can do something to protest it, you know?"
AMY GOODMAN: The Caetano regime.
CHARLIE HADEN: Yeah. And so, during the tour we were playing one of my songs, "Song for Che," and I decided that when we played my song, because it was connected to me, because I was the guy that was going to do it, you know, I would dedicate that song to the Black peoples’ liberation movements in Mozambique and Angola and Guinea-Bissau. And I asked — I think we were in Bulgaria, and we were doing a jazz festival there. Or Romania, we were in Bucharest, and I asked one of the journalists there, who was from Portugal, I said, "I’m planning on" — because he knew about the Liberation Music Orchestra. He says, "What are you going to do?" And I said, "I’m going to dedicate — what would happen if I did this?"
He said, "Well, three or four different things. You can either be shot on the spot, or they could pull you off the stage, or they could arrest you on the stage. They could arrest you in your dressing room. Or they can arrest you later. But you’re going to be arrested." And I thought, you know, I don’t think they’ll arrest me, man. I’m an American jazz musician. This is a jazz festival. It has nothing to do with politics. I think I’m safe.
So I made the dedication, and I wasn’t arrested immediately, but, you know, when I did the dedication there were young people there, students, that were in the cheaper seats in front, and they all started cheering so loud that you couldn’t hear the music. And a lot of police were running around with automatic weapons, and they, right after we finished our set, they stopped down the festival, and they closed down in Cascais this big stadium that we were playing in. And we went back to the hotel, and so I was starting to get concerned about what was going to happen.
The next day, we went to the airport, and at the airport, I was trying to get my bass on the plane to make sure I could get the bass on the plane. And there were hundreds and hundreds of people in front of the airlines’ counters. And finally, one of the people from TWA came around the counter and said, "There was a man over there who wanted to interview you, and you have to stay here." And I said, "I don’t want to be interviewed." And Ornette came over and said, "What’s going on?" And they say, "They want to interview Mr. Haden, and you guys are going to get on the plane. And he’s staying here." And Ornette said, "No, we’re not going on the plane. We’re going to stay here with him." And they said, "No, you’re not. You’re getting on the plane." They took them by the arms, and they led them on the aircraft. And I stayed there, and they took me down a winding staircase to an interrogation room and started pumping me with questions. They said, "We’re going to transfer you over to the PIDE headquarters."
AMY GOODMAN: The police?
CHARLIE HADEN: It was the political police of Portugal. And so I said, you know, "I’m a United States citizen with a United States passport. I demand to be able to call the embassy." And the guy who worked for TWA looked at me and smiled and said, "It’s Sunday, Mr. Haden. You can’t call the embassy. You shouldn’t mix politics with music."
AMY GOODMAN: Jazz legend Charlie Haden. We’ll be back with him in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: "Song for Che" by Charlie Haden, the song he dedicated to the Black liberation movements of Mozambique and Angola that got him arrested in Portugal in 1971. Charlie Haden describes what happened once the Portuguese police got him.
CHARLIE HADEN: And the next thing I know, I’m in a car, and we’re traveling to a prison. And I’m thrown into a dark room with no lights, and I stay there for I don’t know how long. A long, long time. And finally — I mean, I was traumatized. You know, I thought I’d never get to see my kids. I thought it was over. I didn’t know what they were going to do.
And they finally came and got me from the room and took me up to an interrogation room with really, really bright lights. I couldn’t see anything. And there was one guy who spoke English that started pumping questions at me right and left, and one of the questions, which I was kind of prepared for, because I thought I would kind of try to fool them. He said, "Why did you make this dedication?" And I said, "Well, I’ve been making a dedication at every country we went to. I dedicated something in Germany to the German people. I dedicated something in France." And he said, "Do you expect us to believe that?" You know, anyway, they brought a statement to me to sign. I refused to sign it, and they started to look —- one guy had a trunch, and in his hand he was doing like this. And -—
AMY GOODMAN: Hitting it against his other hand.
CHARLIE HADEN: Hitting it against his other hand. And as soon as I thought like everything is over with, there was a guy that came down and whispered something in the head policeman’s ear. And all of a sudden he completely changed. He says, "Mr. Haden, you’re going upstairs. Someone from the American embassy is here to retrieve you."
And I went up to this real plush room, which was really different from where I had been, and the guy said, "Hey, Charlie, what’d you say the other night that caused all that commotion?" He says, "Wow!" He said, "Well, my name’s Bob Jones, and I’m from Chicago. I’m the cultural attaché here. Come along with me and, you know, we can get you out of this place." You know, I said, "Oh, great!" Anyway, I went to his villa and went to the airport and got —
AMY GOODMAN: This was Nixon’s cultural attaché to Portugal.
CHARLIE HADEN: This was Nixon’s cultural attaché. I found out later from Ornette, too, and from other people that they weren’t going to do — the United States wasn’t going to do anything, because they were very embarrassed by what I did, because of NATO. And they didn’t want to have anything to do with it. And finally, I guess Ornette helped, too, and one of the promoters in Lisbon was kind enough to help, and they said, "You know, this guy’s a famous jazz musician, and you better let him go, you know, because it’s not going to look good for you." And they let me go, and I was very happy.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to the legendary musician, bassist and political activist, Charlie Haden. After this, did it change your thoughts about speaking out? Did it make you radioactive for other jazz musicians? Did musicians support you in what you had done?
CHARLIE HADEN: Most of the musicians that I performed and played and recorded with all supported me. You know, it’s such a struggle for jazz musicians in this country to get their music played and to the people. And in that struggle, they don’t really have time — or, you know, they’re struggling to play their music, and I think that that’s the reason that more musicians don’t speak out politically.
But I started getting worried when the FBI came to my apartment, and they had been watching the house. I saw cars out in front on 97th Street, where we lived, and I knew plain-clothes cars when I saw it, you know. And they finally came up to the door and rang the doorbell, and they said, "We’re FBI. We want to talk to you." And I said, "Well, why should I let you in?" They said, "Well, we’re asking you if we can come in and talk to you." So I said, "I don’t have anything to hide. Come in." So, they asked me, you know, "Why did you do that?" And I told them. I said, "I don’t agree with the policies of the Portuguese government, and that’s why I did that." And they had a whole dossier on me. I couldn’t believe it.
Anyway, but I thought about it afterwards, and if I had it to do again, I would do it again. And as a result, I think, of what I did, because nobody had ever done that in Portugal, my wife Ruth and I later learned that they put it into the school books of the schools in Portugal, what I did. And there was a revolution in 1974 of the young enlisted officers, and they overthrew Caetano. He fled the country. And I think it was a gentleman named Duarte [Soares] that took over, socialist government. They invited me to come back, and I came back and I played. And there were 40,000 people in this big meadow in Lisbon, and they were all chanting, "Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!" And I had goose bumps all over. It made me feel so good.
And then, my wife Ruth and I were invited back, because I met, while I was there, Carlos Paredes, who was this famous fado player, and I loved his playing, and so I said, "I want to play with you." He had been arrested under Salazar. And we came back and did a film with him, and they took me back to the stadium where I was arrested in ’71. And they did a little documentary. It was all in Portuguese. And it was really nice to go back.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about speaking out and how easy or hard it is, and if you think that as a white jazz musician, you were able to speak out more than Black jazz musicians, if it matters. I mean, Louis Armstrong, for example, not known for speaking out, but when it came to the Little Rock Nine, to the kids not being able to get in school, he did speak out fiercely and actually talked about President Eisenhower — why wasn’t he taking the hand of the children and walking into school? — and took great risk in speaking out. Do you think there’s a difference?
CHARLIE HADEN: No, I don’t think there’s a difference. I think it’s a commitment to equality and to humanism and compassion in the world. It’s a commitment. I mean, when you’re a sensitive human being and you see the things that are going on around you that aren’t human, you know, you have to speak out and do something about it. And I think that’s what Louis Armstrong did. And, you know, Max Roach and Charlie Mingus did the same thing when they made the recordings they made about racism. And Archie Shepp. There’s a lot of African American musicians that spoke out about racism, and I’m happy about that.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve won a lot of awards, Charlie Haden. You won the Downbeat critics and readers polls for unprecedented 14 consecutive years as number one acoustic bassist. You’ve won Grammy after Grammy. But your latest CD, your latest Liberation Music Orchestra CD, called Not in My Name [sic] didn’t win a Grammy.
CHARLIE HADEN: Not in Our Name.
AMY GOODMAN: Not in Our Name.
CHARLIE HADEN: And, you know, I was on tour with Pat Metheny in 2003, and we did an album called Beyond the Missouri Sky. It was a duet. We’re both from Missouri. And it was all these beautiful Americana songs and really well received. And so we were doing a tour for this music, and we were in Italy and in Spain, especially. We were walking down streets in different cities, and we would see unfurled from balconies of the apartment houses, "Not In Our Name." And that’s when Iraq had been attacked. People talk about a war in Iraq. There’s no war in Iraq. It was an invasion and an occupation. And the people in Europe really cared, you know. And when I saw all these banners from the balconies saying, "Not In Our Name," that stuck with me. And when I did this record, that’s what I called it.
AMY GOODMAN: Not in Our Name.
CHARLIE HADEN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And in Not in Our Name, you have this medley of songs you call "America the Beautiful."
CHARLIE HADEN: There were so many songs that we wanted to do. And Carla composed a song. I composed a song. And the medley was "America the Beautiful" combined with "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which is the African American national anthem in the United States, very famous song and beautiful song. And then we did Ornette Coleman’s "Skies of America." And we did — you know, there was another guy, Gary McFarland, who was a jazz composer/arranger back in the late '60s, who made an album called America the Beautiful. He was one of the guys that spoke out, you know. And we patterned one of the arrangements after his arrangement. And we did "Adagio for Strings." I wanted to do all American composers. "This Is Not America" by Pat Metheny, which was in the movie, The Falcon and the Snowman, and David Bowie sings it at the end. And then we did Carla's song, "Blue Anthem," my song, "Not in Our Name." We did "Amazing Grace," which I used to sing, you know, in church. And we did "Goin’ Home," which has become kind of like a folksong in the United States, which was actually from the "Largo" from the New World Symphony by Dvorak. And "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the title being Not in Our Name had an effect on its reception, in terms of the conventional, you know, awards?
CHARLIE HADEN: Well, you know, I really don’t have time to even dwell on those things. I know that a lot of those things happen, and I have so much to do that I don’t really think about that. I know that it probably wasn’t nominated for a Grammy because of its politics. But, you know, who am I to say? You know, I make the music, and what happens after I make the music, I hope, is a positive thing for people and causes them to start thinking about, this shouldn’t be in our name either. But I’ve had, you know, many people come up to me and say, "It’s really great that you did this," and "Thank you for doing this." And that’s rewarding to me.
We were just in South Africa playing at the Cape Town Festival, and I was there with my wife Ruth and Quartet West. And there was a gentleman there that was in the parliament, and he came up to me. He says, "Can I have coffee with you?" And so we went and had coffee, and he said, "You know, you politicized me when I was a young man. I listened to your first Liberation Orchestra recording, and I started reading about Che Guevara, and I started reading about the Spanish Civil War. I started reading about all these different things." And he said, "And I was living in a one-room shack with my family. Eleven kids, no running water, whatever, back in apartheid," you know. And he said, "Then I joined the ANC, and I was arrested, put in solitary confinement, and I thought about your music. It kept me going. And when I was released and Nelson Mandela freed me" — and he said, "I play your music all the time." He said, "It’s because of you that I was politicized."
He said, "I had to come and thank you for this, because you’re here in Cape Town." And he said, "I wanted you to know what you did for my life." And he said, "I want you" — to Ruth and I, he said, "I want you and your wife to meet my wife and my sons." And it was so great, you know, and tears came to our eyes when he was talking about his confinement and what he had to go through. And he says, "Now I go to parliament every day, and I listen to your record with Hank Jones called Steal Away every morning at five." And that just knocked me out. So it’s things like that that make everything worthwhile, all the sacrifices, all of the, whatever, criticism. But, you know, there’s more enjoyment and there’s more fulfillment than there is criticism, and that’s what I’m happy about.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Charlie, 50 years of making music and many years to come, is there anything you wish you had done, and do you plan to do it now?
CHARLIE HADEN: I’ve been so lucky to play with great musicians, most of whom I wanted to play with and I sought out when I was in my younger stages, and, you know, I wouldn’t do anything different, except I would seek out as many musicians to life the way I am and dedicated to beauty the way I am, because it’s not really about categories, like jazz, it’s about beautiful music and playing music from all over the world with other musicians who are dedicated, because it’s up to us to bring beauty back into this world. It’s up to people in the arts, the painters, the writers, the composers, the dance troupes, everybody, the actors, the people who write poetry. You know, it’s up to us to try to make a difference in this world and try to make this planet a better to live for all the human beings and stop the cruelty and the devastation that’s going on, you know, and have a great place.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think you can do that with your music?
CHARLIE HADEN: I’m going to try.
AMY GOODMAN: And do you think jazz is going to continue?
CHARLIE HADEN: Jazz will always continue. It’s an art form that’s very, very powerful, very, very powerful, and has a powerful message of improvisation and spontaneity. And there’s a lot of young people dedicated to it, and they’re being born every day, you know. And it’s not just in jazz. It’s in all different kinds of music that young people want to express themselves in the language of whatever art form they’re in. And that’s the most important thing. I started the Jazz Studies out at California Institute of the Arts in 1982, and that’s a campus that has all of the arts, you know, and I tell my students — I mean, there’s young people from all over the world that come to study with me about the spirituality of improvisation.
AMY GOODMAN: Jazz legend Charlie Haden. On September 11th, he and his Liberation Music Orchestra will join us here in New York at the historic Cooper Union Great Hall at Astor Place to launch Democracy Now!’s 10th anniversary 80-city tour.
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