‘A Love Supreme’ for God: John Coltrane’s Story

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is easily one of my favorite recordings of jazz music.  As noted in the Arun Rath story I quote below, it is his love for God that fueled this awesome 1964 recording by the talented jazz saxophonist.  It was released 50 years ago this year (February 1965).  How Coltrane got to the point of creating this classic album is reflected in his personal life.

  • Only 40 years old when he died in Long Island in 1967, today would have been the jazz musician’s 89th birthday.
  • He underwent a transformation in the months leading up to the December 1964 recording.  His new life view sparked his praise of God, including this 50-year old jazz masterpiece.

Personally, it took me a while to appreciate this album.   Like my spiritual growth, my taste in jazz music evolved over time; initially a Ronnie Laws (another saxophonist) lover, I grew to love the jazz expressions of John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, & McCoy Tyner.  Once I came to understand Coltrane’s music, it was hard to really appreciate Laws anymore.

  • Excerpts of two NPR stories on this classic jazz recording are offered below.

As I read Eric Westervelt’s post, I thought of the importance of knowing someone’s story.  How Coltrane (Sept. 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967) came to his respectful praise of God, and what that change meant, is a fascinating story.


A Love Supreme is Coltrane’s ultimate spiritual testament: The “love supreme” he describes is God’s love.


While A Love Supreme is a recognized musical masterpiece, it had enormous personal significance for Coltrane.  In the spring of 1957, his dependence on heroin and alcohol lost him one of the best jobs in jazz.   He was playing sax and touring with Miles Davis’ popular group when he became unreliable and strung out.   Alternately catatonic and brilliant, Coltrane’s behavior and playing became increasingly erratic.   Davis fired him after a live show that April.

Soon after, Coltrane resolved to clean up his act.   He would later write, in the 1964 liner notes to A Love Supreme, “In the year of 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening, which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.”

But Coltrane didn’t always stay the clean course.   As he also wrote in the album’s notes, “As time and events moved on, I entered into a phase which is contradictory to the pledge and away from the esteemed path.   But thankfully now, through the merciful hand of God, I do perceive and have been fully reinformed of his omnipotence.   It is truly a love supreme.” [Emphasis added]


Check out:

Greg Silverthorne, 9/21/15

66 Assurance Way

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