There are so many sides to Mingus. The same man responsible for "Haitian Fight Song" (eventually renamed "Afro-American Fight Song" to make it all the more topical), "Fables of Faubus" and "Meditations on Integration", was also the composer of lyrical, moving love ballads, like "Celia", "I X Love", and of celebrations of childhood, like "Hora Decubitis". His songs of love aren't necessarily bitter or cynical. This "crazy nigger" saw no contradiction between being tough guy and tender lover, firebrand and clown. This "angry young man" was not afraid to be gentle and quietly sensitive. Sure, there are any number of people, whether musicians or otherwise, who can be eloquent in their anger; and even more whose talents lie primarily in the composition of love ballads. But there are precious few who can stand with one foot planted firmly at each extreme. There is no middle ground for these geniuses. They expend the energy of any six giants every time they create or re-create a piece of music. This is Mingus.
And this is Mingus: the Big Man who blew up the world several times in "Pithecanthropus" and "Oh Lord, Don't Let Them Drop That Atom Bomb on Me"; who waged war with "Afro-American Fight Song" and preached a "Prayer for Passive Resistance"; who told us to "Remember Rockefeller at Attica" and then invited us to "Eat That Chicken". A man who could be fiercely proud of the tears in his eyes when he spoke of love, real love, passion between real peoplenot a Flower-Power kind of shallow, empty love. An angry man, and a proud man, who could cry with no shame at all and laugh with every fiber of his soul. Maybe the anger in his music is for those people who are afraid to cry, who are afraid to say "love". It's all there, in his music. This is Mingus.
Like so few others, he will never be gone from our world. I would like to think that Harry Haller, Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf, would have readily counted Mingus among the "Immortals", along with Beethoven and Mozart.
This is Mingus. And this is why I love Mingus.
Any more questions?
Painting by John Froehlich