What John Coltrane Means To Me

I’d like to provide this page as a tribute to John Coltrane and I invite artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and fans to reflect on the life and music of one of America’s most loved and revered musicians. Please don’t hesitate to use the contact form at the bottom of this page to have your #TraneTribute included in this space.

“John Coltrane is one of my personal heroes and a consistent source of inspiration not only because of the blistering heights to which he pushed his craft, but specifically because he was the type of human being who made it a point to search for the beauty in everything around him. He saw promise in the stuff of life we often overlook. And he cultivated his observations and his reflections in the best way he knew how: through his music.”

–Frank Morelli, author of On the Way to Birdland and No Sad Songs

“Trane is life.”

–Michael Ferro, author of Title 13

So…why did I include legendary jazz icon, John Coltrane, in a Young Adult novel?

It took me a long time, but I finally realized my obsession with John Coltrane that began on a strange evening on my first night along the rural stretches of High Point, North Carolina (after living the city life for years in Philadelphia and in Harlem) had nothing to do with race or gender or talent or non-talent or anything other than the essence of what it means to be human. To be a student of living. To care for others and to take care in how we go about accomplishing life’s most elusive goals. 

To search for the sound in everything around us.

In John Coltrane we had a human being with great flaws; a man once wracked by addiction; a man who at one time almost gave up on his dream to become a world changing musician; but also a man who sought to understand the underlying conflicts people faced across all boundaries, who was a student of spirituality in all its forms, and whose dogged determination and drive to master his craft lead to the type of sound that defines the hopes, dreams, and also the heartache of an entire nation.

Coltrane once famously said, “I know that there are bad forces, forces that bring suffering to others and misery to the world. I want to be the opposite force. I want to be the force which is truly for good.” In an age marked by tribal conflict and underlying fear, the jazz legend’s prophetic words set an important example we must all begin to follow if we ever want to see the positive change we so desperately need in our world.

For a young man like Cordy Wheaton, my protagonist in the young adult novel On the Way to Birdland, John Coltrane represents the light. He is the inspiration that beckons Cordy out of the darkness. Out from behind his own shadows. Out of the cave, if you will, and into a new reality that moves and shakes and clashes in beautiful contrasts like a perfectly-conducted jazz tune. 

Like Trane himself.

It is my firm hope that On the Way to Birdland will inspire a new generation of readers to explore the music, the legacy, and the wisdom of John Coltrane.

I invite you to join me on the epic journey.

Frank Morelli is the author of the young adult novel, No Sad Songs (2018), a 2019 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominee and winner of an American Fiction Award for best coming of age story. His fiction and essays have appeared in numerous publications including The Saturday Evening Post, Cobalt Review, Philadelphia Stories, Boog City and Jersey Devil Press.

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