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Gary McFarland: This is Gary McFarland

Gary McFarland

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives.” On Nov. 2, 1971, Gary McFarland died under mysterious circumstances at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village. He was 38. Apparently he ingested a lethal dose of liquid methadone. It will never be known whether he took the drug on purpose or whether someone spiked his drink. Inexplicably, the police never investigated.

McFarland was a gifted composer, arranger, vibraphonist and producer. He was self-taught and started late. In his 10-year career, his most important achievements were his orchestral albums, including the Impulse! LPs Profiles, from 1966, and The October Suite, released the following year and featuring pianist Steve Kuhn. They are as formidable, and as majestic, as the great works of Gil Evans.

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Originally Published

Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad has a BA from the University of Utah and an MA from the University of Iowa (where he attended the Writers Workshop). He taught English at Central State University in Ohio, then left the academic world for the private sector. His affiliation with publications such as JazzTimes, Stereophile, The New York City Jazz Record and DownBeat has enabled him to sustain active involvement in two of his passions: music and writing.