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“I Became a Comedian Because of Max Roach”–Bill Cosby Remembers His Favorite Jazz Drummer

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Comedian Bill Cosby paid tribute to Max Roach at his funeral on Friday. “Why I became a comedian is because of Max Roach,” Cosby said. “I wanted to be a drummer.” [includes rush transcript]

  • Bill Cosby, speaking at the funeral of jazz pioneer, Max Roach.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Max Roach died last week at the age of eighty-three. He died of Alzheimer’s. Bill Cosby also paid tribute to Max Roach at his funeral at Riverside Church. He said, “Why I became a comedian is because of Max Roach. I wanted to be a drummer.” Cosby went on to recall how he spent $75 on a drum set and then tried to imitate his favorite jazz drummers.

BILL COSBY: Art Blakey came to town. And Art Blakey sat down, and I watched. Doo-da-doo be-shok! And I saw him. He hit it twice. Shzook! And he hit it so fast that it came out shzok! I said, “Ah-ha! I got you now, Art Blakey!” And I went home, and I looked at the drum and the sticks, and I said, da-da da-da shzok!, and it came out shzok! on the snare. Got you! Ha ha!

Then bought a LP. Max Roach and sp-da-da-da da da-ba-ba-ba-baa! Da-da-da-da da da-da-da-da daa! Fa-da-da-da-da da-da — and I kept — I kept falling behind. It was ba-da-da-baa tsooee — and then the left hand — the left hand said, “Look, you play, and because” — and the right hand said, “Well, if you play, then I know — I lose,” and said, “Well, just fill boom!, hit the base drum and then try to catch up and, oh, just do something.” And they kept playing — de-ba-da-ba-da da-dwi-bi-di-da, oh-ji-ba-da-bla oollllll blllllll dllllll blllllll bop!

Max Roach came to town. He came to the Showboat. And I sat there. Max came out, had a blue blazer on with some kind of crest. I was with my boys from the projects. And one of my boys said, “Max got a boat.” And the musicians did — da-bleen-din-dol-ding-dol-din-blorp-worp, ha-da-ha-da. And Max sat down, and his face never changed. He took both sticks, and he said, bash, bash, fa-di-di-di-di-di-di-di-di-daa, da-da-da-daa-da-da-da-da-daa, vi-di-di-di-di-di-di-di-di-daa, va-di-di-di-di — and I went home. It was no tricks. Nothing I could take.

When I finally met him in person to the point where Max Roach knew who I was, and he came over to me, he said, “Bill Cosby!” I said, “Let me tell you something. You owe me $75.”

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Cosby at the funeral of Max Roach.

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