Johnny Coltrane, more commonly known as John Coltrane, is an American jazz legend. This saxophonist who is second only perhaps to Charlie Parker, was born September 23, 1926, in Hamlet, NC. He grew up in the South, spending most of his youth in High Point, NC, where he picked up his very first saxophone around the age of 15. Back then he started off playing an alto saxophone, but eventually became known for his tenor sax playing.
Coltrane moved to Philadelphia in 1943 to attend the Ornstein School of Music, but Naval service from 1945-1946 disrupted his studies, taking him to Hawaii instead. In 1949, Coltrane joined Dizzy Gillespie's big band on alto sax. Coltrane played with many bands, alternating as needed between alto and tenor sax, but by 1953 when he joined Johnny Hodges septet, he was clearly committed to tenor sax.
Coltrane's career really took off when he became a member of Miles Davis' quintet in 1955. It is generally accepted that Coltrane's 'real career' occurred from 1955-1967. During the 1950s Coltrane's drug and alcohol addiction impacted his career, but after splitting from Davis' group, Coltrane overcame his addictions and turned out his masterpiece, A Love Supreme, the album he is still best known for to this day.
Coltrane worked with Thelonius Monk in 1957, and by 1960 having established himself as the leading tenor saxophonist in jazz, formed his own group. John Coltrane spent the 60s experimenting with a new sound and searching for a musical ideal. He was known to be an avid supporter of up and coming avante-garde musicians.
Sadly, John Coltrane died on July 17, 1967, in Long Island, NY from a liver ailment. He was only 40 years old. While he left this world much too soon, the musical legacy he left behind will live on forever.