“For the next five years, Mingus was sunk in gloom. The young people who’d followed him at the Five Spot had moved on to the wilder shores of free jazz and rock, and he felt abandoned. He stopped recording and hardly touched his bass. He became a photographer, wandering around the Village on a bicycle with a dozen cameras strapped to his chest. The amphetamines and diet pills he relied on to keep his spirits up and his weight down didn’t seem to work anymore: he grew fatter and more depressed. He kept tear-gas bombs and shotguns in his studio, fired holes into the ceiling, and spoke of plots against him by the government and the mob. He pissed into juice bottles rather than the toilet, in case the authorities were investigating his urine for signs of drug use. The owner of his flat, which was an illegal sublet, tried to evict him. When Mingus withheld his rent in protest, the police came to kick him out. “I hope the Communists blow you people up,” he said as they took him away, his eyes welling with tears.”


1. Charles Mingus painted by Debra Hurd.
2. Text from An Argument With Instruments: On Charles Mingus.
3. Thomas Reichman’s 1968 documentary Mingus. A close up portrait of the jazz legend during those dark years mentioned above.