Racism, Blindness and Paralysis Could Not Stop the Unrelenting Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk fought for racial equality, for fair treatment of disabled persons, and for greater appreciation of jazz. Multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk fought for racial equality, for fair treatment of disabled persons, and for greater appreciation of jazz. (From "The Case of the Three Sided Dream," directed by Adam Kahan/Chuck Stewart)

Director Adam Kahan discusses his documentary, “The Case of the Three Sided Dream,” about multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Kirk was not only a musician but was also a fighter for racial equality and for fair treatment of disabled persons (he was made blind as an infant by a wrongly administered eye medication). He also started a political movement to get more jazz, which he called Black Classical Music, on television. At the apex of his career Rahsaan suffered a debilitating stroke, which left half of his body paralyzed, yet he continued to play, record and tour, with the use of only one hand, literally until the day he died. “The Case of the Three Sided Dream” is playing July 26 at Rooftop Films Brookfield Place (formerly World Financial Center).



Adam Kahan

Comments [4]

Amy from Manhattan

I'm glad Rahsaan's life & music are getting some exposure. He should be better known. He made playing 3 instruments much more than a gimmick. I've had "Blacknuss" & "Bright Moments" playing in my head throughout this interview!

On his preferring "blind" to "sightless," it reminds me of meeting an Israeli woman who explained her condition to me in Hebrew w/a phrase that translates as "I don't see" rather than "I *can't* see." It made me think about this & other "disabilities" differently.

Jul. 23 2014 01:07 PM
Canonchet from Brooklyn

A great project celebrating and one hopes reviving wide interest in the wonderful, unique, immortal Rahsaan, one of the great life forces in American music -= 'black classical music' as he called it - a one-man energy field. I had the great pleasure of seeing him several times at Newport - with Mingus and later on his own - but never more memorably than one night in a blizzard in Quebec City in 1992 (?) when a couple of hitchhiking friends and I stepped out of the driving snow into a warm and well-lit jazz pub with a small stage behind a horseshoe bar, upon which, to our shock and delght, was perched the late great Roland Kirk, in a chair, with his tenor and stritch and manzello and beels and whistles, in the midst of one of his astonishing harmonic rotary-breathing solos, as the crowded Quebecois bar crowd listened in rapt, silent amazement. Like a dream, but better, with a Kirk soundtrack.

Jul. 23 2014 01:04 PM
Richard from New York

One of the true greats. Besides having gotten to hear and see him perform, I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting him on several occasions when he was shopping at the Sam Goody record store on West 49th Street. I worked there in my first job after (not graduating) college.

Rahsaan draped himself, literally, with a whole world of stories.

Please talk about the whistling procession led by Rahsaan when interrupting the Merv Griffin show. His "protest" led to more jobs and exposure for jazz musicians on network television.

Jul. 23 2014 12:49 PM
Tom Williams from Barrie, Ontario

As a young promotion man at Atlantic records in Toronto, I made the mistake of saying to Rahsaan's assistant, "does he want me to do anything else/" at which point Mr Kirk rightly started yelling at me and said he was putting a voodoo curse on me. (I don't know about the curse, but from then on I always directed questions directly to a blind person when dealing with them)
The next night he was playing Montreal and my promo man there called me and told me that RAhsaan had pulled out a gun in the elevator and started waving it around. Quite shaken, he told me that you haven't lived until you have ridden in an elevator with a blind man waving a gun.
Eccentricities aside, he playing never failed to inspire.

Jul. 23 2014 12:27 PM

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