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Is Jazz Good for Your Health?

Booze, cigarettes, and drugs are an enduring part of jazz’s mythology, but a new generation of musicians is embracing wellness in an effort to advance the artform

Dee Dee Bridgewater (support dog not pictured). Photo: Mark Higashino

“When I started my career,” Dee Dee Bridgewater says, “thinking about wellness was not a thing.” Don’t get the award-winning vocalist wrong; she has long understood the importance of sleeping properly, drinking plenty of water, eating well, and not smoking for good health. But the concept of health and wellness and its ties to mental and emotional health didn’t become a conscious part of her life until fairly recently—and when it did, there was a dog involved.

In 2001, Bridgewater’s stepfather died. She became so depressed that she struggled to get out of bed; it was a condition that could have derailed her professional life. Bridgewater’s mother was also depressed, having lost her husband of 33 years, and she went to a doctor, who prescribed her antidepressants. She recommended that her daughter consult a doctor too. Bridgewater recalls never having deep conversations about depression before that episode. She soon began taking antidepressants as well.

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John Murph

John Murph is a Washington, D.C.-based music journalist and DJ. He’s written for numerous outlets that include JazzTimes, DownBeat, NPR Jazz, JazzWise, The Root, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic Monthly. He hosts a weekly radio program at Eaton Hotel DC.