In his book The Making of Jazz: A Comprehensive History, James Lincoln Collier wrote that “the history of jazz is filled with names of musicians who have been extravagantly admired. . . . But no jazz musician has ever received the extreme adulation visited on John Coltrane.” In his native state two towns make claims on Coltrane.
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John Coltrane was born on Bridges Street in Hamlet. The building has recently been restored and now houses the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and several businesses. It bears a small cornerstone noting the fact of his birth. At three months of age Coltrane and his family moved to High Point where they lived on Underhill Street. That house also remains. Coltrane lived there until age seventeen and completed his education at William Penn High School, where he played clarinet and saxophone. A cultural center named for Coltrane is planned for the campus. (A privately sponsored historical marker dedicated to Coltrane stands in High Point.)
After high school Coltrane moved to Philadelphia where he attended music school. He made his professional debut in 1945 and collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis in milestone recordings before forming his own group in 1960. In the years before his death at age forty, he “achieved the rare feat of establishing avant garde jazz, temporarily, as popular music,” according to critic Martin Williams. One measure of Coltrane’s significance is the fact that he has been the subject of at least four biographies.
New Grove Dictionary of American Music (1986), I, 475-477
Martin Williams, The Jazz Tradition (1970)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 410-411 – sketch by Marcus B. Simpson Jr.
Greensboro News and Record, November 10, 1990, and September 22, 1991