Memories of Valentine

Written in 1937 by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, My Funny Valentine would go on to become a popular jazz standard, appearing on more than 1300(!) albums in total and performed by such great artists as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis.

One of its earliest and most memorable recordings was by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet in 1952, which featured a captivating solo by Chet Baker. It was a major hit, and became a tune closely associated with Baker until the end of his turbulent life.

Plaque in memory of Chet Baker outside Hotel Prins Hendrik in Amsterdam (photo by Jeroen Coert)

A life that came to an abrupt end on on May 13, 1988, when the American trumpeter, flugelhornist and vocalist was found dead on Prins Hendrikkade, the street below his room at Hotel Prins Hendrik in Amsterdam (nearby the city’s Central Station).  An autopsy found heroin and cocaine in his body and these drugs were also found in his hotel room. His death was ruled an accident.

I also happened to live on Prins Hendrikkade for one year when I first came to study in the Dutch capital, oblivious of the grim connection between the street and Baker’s death. Ever since I found out about it, memories of my student days mingle with Baker’s melodies as I pass by the area around Hotel Prins Hendrik.

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