“I had been warned I might be shot immediately but I decided to do it anyway": The unstoppable Charlie Haden

June 1992: American jazz musician Charlie Haden poses for a portrait in June 1992 in New York City, New Yor
(Image credit: Catherine McGann/Getty Images)

Stepping to the microphone to introduce one of his compositions, Charlie Haden dedicates the song to the cause of freedom. A near-riot ensues, and the sound of the Ornette Coleman Quartet is almost drowned out by wild cheering. The next day, Haden is arrested and held by the secret police. After a harrowing night of interrogation, he is released and told to leave the country immediately.

The incident took place in 1971 in Portugal, ruled at the time by a fascist government determined to retain its colonies in Africa. Haden was on a 14-country tour of Europe with a Newport Jazz Festival package that included the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, and others. Disturbed by the prospect of performing in a country with a repressive colonial regime, Charlie felt he had to act.

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Jim Roberts was the founding editor of Bass Player and also served as the magazine’s

publisher and group publisher. He is the author of How The Fender Bass Changed The World

and American Basses: An Illustrated History & Player’s Guide, both published by Backbeat

Books/Hal Leonard.