John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, known as one of the most talented musicians in Jazz history, died on this day (January 6, 1993).

Although he is most known for his superb trumpet-playing abilities, but usually had his hand on all sides of making music.

Portrait of man in beret holding a trumpet.
Photo by William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress


John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie’s effect on jazz cannot be overstated: his trumpet playing influenced every player who came after him, his compositions have become part of the jazz canon, and his bands have included some of the most significant names in the business. He was also, along with Charlie Parker, one of the major leaders of the bebop movement.

Gillespie’s father was an amateur bandleader who, although dead by the time Gillespie was ten, had given his son some of his earliest grounding in music. Gillespie began playing trumpet at 14 after briefly trying the trombone, and his first formal musical training came at the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina.