Happy Birthday Dear John!

I will never forget the moment I heard the news that John Coltrane had died. I was sitting in a friend’s apartment on Harvey Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio when another friend, the late Sid Kennedy, came by and told us Coltrane had crossed over. Sid then announced he was heading home to play every Coltrane album in his collection while getting drunk.

I was fifteen years old and somehow the death of Trane seemed impossible to get my head around. He was a seminal influence in my life. Like many others of my generation, I cannot imagine what my “coming of age” experience would have been like without his music. He provided the “soundtrack” of my youth. And his artistry and spirituality have guided my journey as a writer/musician ever since. Only Pharaoh Sanders (with whom I had the privilege of “sitting in” once) taught me as much about “Wisdom Through Music.”

John Coltrane was forty years old when he died of liver cancer on July 17, 1967. He would have been 85 today.





Click here for the Official John Coltrane website.


3 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Dear John!

  1. Hello,
    I’m writing because every now and then I “google’ Sid Kennedy in Cincinnati, looking for information about dj “Symphony Sid Kennedy” who had a late, late night show on WCIN in the 1960s and 70s. I learned so much from that show about the music of the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. Mr. Kennedy was so knowledgeable and I felt I had a secret source for the greatest music in the world! I see you mention a Sid Kennedy in your tribute to Mr. Coltrane and I wondered if this was THE Sid Kennedy I had been searching for. I just always wondered who he was, how he got started…I was looking for a bio. If this is the same man, I’m very sorry to learn he has passed. Can you tell me anything about him, how he got started in radio, where his love for and knowledge of music came from? If this is not the same man, my apologies for leaving this somewhat odd message. Your tribute to Coltrane is wonderful. Thank you.

    • Robin,

      My dear friend Sidney Kennedy passed away nearly twenty years ago. He was the brilliant Symphony Sid you heard on the radio. I can’t tell you exactly how his career started, but he learned about the music he featured on his shows on his own. He was a tremendous influence in my life. Sid encouraged me to join the New Theater of Cincinnati (a company founded by Nikki Giovanni, Lincoln Pettaway and others, and funded by Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses) when I was fourteen years old. At the time he recruited me I had been thrown out of two junior high schools (before I was done the number came to four), as a result of my “black” militancy (this was during the height of the black power movement). Sid was a gifted actor working with a fledgling company that became one of the most important cultural institution’s in the Cincinnati black community. When I went to see him rehearsing his lead role as the “Mayor” in the play “Day of Absence” by Douglas Turner Ward, I was immediately hooked. I joined the stage crew, and later worked as an actor. I also wrote plays and performed with the company’s music ensemble (The Black Arts Ensemble). This was a life-changing experience for me. I don’t know where I would be today if Sid hadn’t mentored me at that most crucial time in my youth. I will always be in his debt.

      Sid was kindhearted, generous, handsome in a Denzel Washington leading man kind of way, but not self-aggrandizing, arrogant, or egotistical. And he always had time for younger guys like me who were trying to survive some difficult and often desperate times. In other words, he was a role-model long before the term became popular.

      Sid’s widow and oldest son live in Atlanta. His youngest son is in NYC. I don’t know the whereabouts of his daughter. I have not kept in touch with his family in the years since he passed. I hope this rather sparse bit of information helps you. I will email you if I come up with anything else to assist you. Thank you for reminding me of one of the great human beings I’ve had the pleasure of knowing as a friend.

  2. Hello,
    Thank you for sharing your memories and thoughts about Sid Kennedy. I am so happy to know a little bit more about him and that he was such a kind and good man as well as a role model and mentor in the black community and treasure for Cincinnati as a whole.

    I had a rough childhood myself, bouncing around to foster homes and became a single mom right out of high school. Part of our family’s difficulties stemmed from my dad being an alcoholic and all the issues that come with that. However, when my dad was sober, he was actually a nice person (alcohol made him violent). He was a chemist by trade BUT was also a musician, playing piano in Big Band and some jazz bands in the 1930s and 40s. He had a great collection of 78s and taught me blues standards when I was as little as 3 or 4. I always wondered if he had pursued music instead of a more “acceptable” occupation, he might have been a happier and sober man. But that’s mostly speculation on my part.

    So, when I was a teen and a young mom, I would come home late at night and often turn on the radio to hear Sid’s show. It reminded me of the “good part” of my dad and I felt close to him after he died when I listened to the music we both loved.

    Again, thanks for sharing about Mr. Kennedy. I just always wondered what became of him and who he was. I am very pleased to learn more about him.

    With much appreciation and best wishes,

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