Marc Myers, the proprietor of Jazzwax, wrote an interesting Wall Street Journal article about widows of prominent jazz musicians. He focuses first on Laurie Pepper (pictured with her husband), who makes a business of maintaining Art Pepper’s legacy. She has issued on her Widow’s Choice label several previously unissued CDs of Pepper’s music. Marc also covers Mrs. Dexter Gordon’s, Mrs. Louis Bellson’s and Mrs. Charles Mingus’s activities in the years since their husbands’ deaths.
From the piece:
In the jazz world, Mrs. Pepper’s efforts are the exception rather than the rule. Aside from Sue Mingus, Maxine Gordon, Francine Bellson and a handful of other enterprising widows, most spouses of deceased jazz greats fail to leverage their husbands’ legacies.
“Without an advocate in the marketplace, the commercial value of a jazz artist’s name slips away,” says Peter Shukat, an entertainment lawyer with Shukat Arrow Hafer Weber & Herbsman in New York. The firm represents the estates of eight deceased entertainers, including John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Nina Simone.
To be fair, many older jazz widows do not have the energy, expertise or entrepreneurial skills to take on such a venture. “Others don’t have the financial means or help from family members,” says Mrs. Mingus. “Or they may have better things to do with their time.”
To read the whole thing, go here.
In a message to the Jazz West Coast listserve, Linda Shank, whose alto saxophonist husband Bud died last year, responded to the Myers piece. With her permission, here is her comment:
Personally I don’t want to play the eternal role of jazz widow. I
own our music publishing company and handle that business with
our CPA and lawyer, but all of Bud’s product sales through his
website I donated along with his massive archives and instruments
to the Bud Shank Archive at the Los Angeles Jazz Institute. That way
his huge history is available to students, scholars, and
interested jazz fans. That would not be the case if I kept the
materials in my closet. Being a widow is damned hard, and even
harder when your husband is a famous artist. I just don’t want to
hear or think about Bud every day as it makes the pain that
much worse. Widows should have a way to get on with their lives. I
know a widow who has kept her husband’s bass in the
living room for more than twenty years! IMHO this is morbid to say
the least. I had almost two splendid decades with Bud and
we wrote some fine music together. I am grateful, and hope I can
find a happy life ahead.