Django’s Departure on the 16th May 1953
Django made his last commercial recording on April 8, 1953, with a progressive group consisting of Vibes (“Fats” Lallemand), Piano (Martial Solal), Bass (Pierre Michelot), and Drums (Pierre Lemarchand).
Differing accounts surround his death.
May 16, 1953, when, while returning from the Avon, Seine-et-Marne train station, he collapsed outside his house from a brain haemorrhage. It took a full day for a doctor to arrive and Django was declared dead on arrival at the hospital in Fontainebleau.
Django was striving towards change. As if he already knew that he was going to have to break with the old formula and continue his search alone. And in his last years we find him no longer concerned with adapting his musical conceptions to the vagaries of current taste but looking for a radically different and completely personal mode of expression. Shortly before his premature death on May 16th 1953 we know that he had reached an understanding with a new generation of musicians such as Hubert Fol, Maurice Vander, Pierre Michelot and Martial Solal, men with whom he found himself perfectly in tune He remained an innovator to the end, but never lost the special lyrical tone and quality of his preferred instrument. It was as if his accommodations with modernism served only to emphasise his proud difference.
In his 1st recording session, Martial Solal found himself accompanying the Belgian Gypsy guitar legend Django Reinhardt, who turned out to be playing on his last gig.
~ A Travellers Tale
A little town called Samois-sur-Seine, where Django Reinhardt, the most famous Manouche guitarist of all time, lived during his last years and is buried. We arrive in Samois and already I’m happy; I decide quickly that Samois is the prettiest place I have seen thus far on my drive through Holland, Belgium and France. Eating at a little coffee shop where Django would play, only round the corner from his house, is a real treat! He picked a beautiful place to retire. We finish our visit to Samois by going to the cemetery to pay respects to Django. When we get there, we find 3 people cleaning Django’s grave – a woman, a boy and a girl. My father-in-law, Jean Pierre, starts a conversation with them. I don’t understand it since I only speak English, so I study the names on the headstone; buried alongside Django are his son Babik, his brother Joseph (who played rhythm guitar for the Hot Club) and his wife Naguine. Jean Pierre informs me that the people tending the grave are the grandchildren of Django! He and the older woman walk to the bottom of the cemetery; the rest of us are left there wondering where they are headed. Alice’s Aunt Francoise thinks the woman must be showing Jean Pierre a place where her 2 sons will be playing later that night.
As they reach the gate, they turn and motion for us to follow. We catch up. But we don’t turn left toward the village; we turn right-through and under the bushes into a clearing where 2 caravans are parked! Not horse drawn, of course: Renault and Peugot. Jean Pierre informs us that these people would not normally be allowed to stay inside city limits, but as the grandchildren of Django, they have been given special permission from the Mayor to stay a few days and clean the grave. (I later found out that the Roma are the people most discriminated against throughout Europe. I also want you to note that I did not use the term “Gypsy” as I’ve come to learn that it is offensive.) The older woman calls her 2 oldest sons out of one of the caravans, introduces me as a true fan of Django, and tells them they should play for us. They oblige – or follow orders – invite us into the trailer, and proceed to play classic Django compositions for the next 20 minutes! The older of the 2 guitarists was Dallas Baumgartner; I later figured out he must be the son of Henri Baumgartner, Django’s 1st-born from his 1st marriage. So, I assume the older woman at the camp was the wife of Henri Baumgartner and mother of Dallas. Certainly, they were giving hosts, who offered 4 strangers food, wine and music. Steve Hussey
The Cause? – Django’s Smoking?
A brain haemorrhage happens when an artery in the brain bursts. This discharge of blood can disrupt the normal circulation to the brain, so it can lead to a stroke, which occurs when part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. Strokes can cause temporary or permanent brain damage. Bleeding within the brain can also raise the pressure inside the skull to dangerous levels. This high pressure in turn can cause the haemorrhage to bleed faster, leading to a vicious cycle of damage within the Brain. Smoking cigarettes has also been show to increase the risk of brain haemorrhages. The risk persists even after an individual has quit smoking. This new information increases the importance of campaigns that encourage current smokers to not only reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, but to stop smoking entirely.