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Charlie Haden is a legend in jazz music. He started as a singer on his family's country radio show when he was just 2 years old. After losing his voice to polio as a teenager, he found a new voice by picking up the bass. That decision launched a career that spans jazz, country and gospel music.
This week, Charlie Haden was inducted into the National Endowment for the Arts 2012 class of Jazz Masters. He couldn't attend the ceremony at Lincoln Center in New York, so his daughter went and gave the acceptance speech instead. But, speaking with NPR's Rachel Martin, Haden read an excerpt:
"I learned at a very young age that music teaches you about life. When you're in the midst of improvisation, there is no yesterday and no tomorrow — there is just the moment that you are in. In that beautiful moment, you experience your true insignificance to the rest of the universe. It is then, and only then, that you can experience your true significance."
Charlie Haden's latest album, Come Sunday, is a collaboration with the late pianist Hank Jones. Jones died in 2010, three months after recording the 14 spirituals, hymns and folk songs that make up this new recording. Haden says the union of those styles with the cadences and rhythms of jazz was mostly a natural fit.
"When you think about the art form, jazz, coming from this country, and you think about the underground railroad and all the music that came from that struggle, and then all the music coming over from Scotland and Ireland and England into the Appalachian and Ozark mountains — it's all one, really," he says. "And it can only have been born in this country."
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