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Artist’s Choice: Mike Watt on the Spirit of John Coltrane

Bassist and punk-rock icon on Coltrane as life instructor

Mike Watt (photo courtesy of the artist)
Mike Watt (photo courtesy of the artist)
John Coltrane: "A Love Supreme"

I’m going to be 60 this year, and there’s a danger when you’ve been around a little bit and you haven’t been killed yet, and so you think you know it all. That’s the most dangerous place; nobody can teach you anything. Keep life a classroom. This is the biggest lesson John Coltrane taught me. His last tour was going to be with teachers. That’s such a thing to look up to. And it’s nothing about scales, and it’s nothing about keys or rhythms, it’s about what you value in music or expression. He’s letting you be free.

“Cousin Mary”
Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1960)

Coltrane’s first-cousin Mary [Alexander] ended up living in his house in Philadelphia [until 2004]. I always take my bands to see that place on tour; in fact, I got a piece of the brick because it was being repaired and a worker man just gave it to me. “Cousin Mary,” it’s a blues. [hums tune] … That simple lick.

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