Since our own philosophical operative linked to this study in the British Journal of Psychiatry -- Forty lives in the bebop business: mental health in a group of eminent jazz musicians -- I'm pretty much obliged to comment. Lindsay linked for amusement purposes only, but there's really quite a lot of amusement to be had: from the table of musicians studied (where poor John Lewis doesn't make the cut as a pianist, and is relegated to the dreaded "arranger" section) to the description of the study's rigorous methodology ("Biographical material relating to 40 eminent American modern jazz musicians was reviewed and an attempt was made to formulate diagnoses using DSM–IV") to the breathlessly gossipy tone throughout -- "Charlie Parker consumed enormous quantities of food, used heroin in increasing amounts, was known to drink 16 double whiskies in a 2-hour period and entered into hundreds of affairs with women."
Bill Frist was roundly criticized for his diagnosis-by-videotape of Terri Schiavo, but the author of this study, Dr. Goeffrey I. Willis, PhD, does Frist one better -- Willis offers a clinical diagnosis of forty jazz musicians, all deceased, based only on the biographical details gleaned from three 40-year old jazz encyclopedias. His startling conclusions? Many of the musicians of the bebop era -- brace yourselves for the awful truth, gentle readers -- used drugs. A couple of prominent players were infamously admitted to psychiatric hospitals and diagnosed with mental disorders (by psychiatrists who sometimes even personally examined their patients). Many led self-destructive lives. Also, the sky, at last check, is still blue.
Willis's unique insights don't stop there. You may have thought that John Coltrane was exceptionally devoted to his art, but it turns out that his obsessive practicing, spiritual searching, and even his quest for the perfect mouthpiece were all manifestations of an anxiety disorder. Willis has apparently found proof of the elusive causal connection between drug use and mental disorders -- "It was felt that from the age of 54 years Thelonious Monk had a dementing process caused by excessive drug usage" -- and I'm sure the evidence for this feeling will be forthcoming in Dr. Willis's next paper. And then there's this (under the heading "Late-life deteriorations and suicides"):
At the age of 52 years Frank Rosolino shot his two sons (killing one and seriously wounding the other) and then killed himself. J. J. Johnson, having been ill for a number of months, died by suicide at the age of 77 years.
J.J. Johnson had one of the longest and most exceptional careers in jazz, establishing a well-deserved reputation as one of the greatest trombonists, composers, and arrangers of all time. He was also, by all reports, a loving father and husband -- he cut short his comeback in the mid-1980's so he could care for his longtime wife, Vivian, who had suffered a debilitating stroke, and did not return to recording until two years after her death in 1991. At the age of 77, J.J. learned that treatment for his prostate cancer had failed, and that the disease would claim his life. He chose instead to bow out early, before the cancer could take its toll.
Implying that, under these conditions, J.J.'s suicide is evidence of mental illness, and to juxtapose it with that of Frank Rosolino, is one of the classier moves Willis makes in this paper.
My only regret is that Willis apparently did not consult the pioneering work of Dr. Edmund Pollock, PhD, Charles's Mingus's personal therapist, who, at Mingus's behest, wrote the gloriously overwrought liner notes to The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady:
In all three tracks of Side I there are recurrent themes of loneliness, separateness, and tearful depression. One feels deeply for the tears of Mr. Mingus that fall for himself and man. There can be no question that he is the Black Saint who suffers for his sins and those of mankind as he reflects his deeply religious philosophy.
The music then changes into a mood of what I would call mounting restless agitation and anguish as if there is a tremendous conflict between love and hate. This is climaxed by the piercing cries of the trombone and answering saxophones as if saying the "I" of personal identity must be achieved and accepted.
It must be emphasized that Mr. Mingus is not yet complete. He is still in a process of change and personal development. Hopefully the integration in society will keep pace with his.