Steve and I have just returned from Amsterdam, which is one of my favourite cities in the world. I love the creative vibe in the air, all of the interesting shops and galleries, the wide variety of excellent options for eating – restaurants, takeaways, markets and most of all, that I can stand on a busy street and no two people passing by are wearing the same clothes. There is so much individuality in Dutch style.
Steve and I went to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the night we met (September 5th). We love travelling and exploring together. One of the things we did was pay a visit to the Prins Hendrik Hotel, where American singer and trumpeter Chet Baker died on May 13, 1988.
A plaque outside the hotel now memorializes him.
Chet Baker (1929-1988) was an idol during his early career in music. Good-looking, talented, he played trumpet mainly by ear and sang in a soft, attractive style. He won polls, travelled to Europe, made recordings, was in films, played with Charlie Parker, and featured briefly in the remarkable Gerry Mulligan Quartet, unique for its not have a piano in the band.
Baker developed a heroin habit in the 1950s, something that would plague him the rest of his life and cause him to spend time in prison. Some of his recordings are brilliant, while others are unfortunate, driven more by need than inspiration. There was a time when damage to his teeth limited Baker’s playing; he eventually had dentures made and slowly relearned his playing ability using an altered embouchere. By the mid 1980’s, Baker was in good form again. Fans and critics alike agree that the live album Chet Baker in Tokyo, recorded less than a year before his death and released posthumously, ranks among Baker’s very best.
In May of 1988, Baker’s body was found on Prins Hendrikkade, near Zeedijk, on the street below his second-story room at the Prins Hendrik Hotel in Amsterdam. There were wounds to his head. Drugs were found in his room. There have been many stories about whether he fell, jumped or was pushed, but an autopsy revealed no evidence of a struggle, so his death was ruled an accident.
Chet Baker gave us some beautiful music, music that will endure. Steve and I discovered his music about a year and a half ago, and put some of his recordings onto our wedding reception playlist. I made this video from film that I recorded on Raamgracht, a canal near the old part of Amsterdam, set to one of my favourite Chet Baker covers Time After Time.