Somebody once told me that Ornette wrote “Peace” for a friend of his who’d recently passed. I was surprised and honestly a little skeptical when I heard this, the song always struck me as more playful than mournful, its loosened harmonies still leaning much more toward major tonalities than minor, its tempo, while more subdued than many of his numbers, is certainly no dirge.
Ornette Coleman – Peace
I’ve never been able to confirm or deny this claim, but either way it was a formative experience in my understanding of music. The act of considering “Peace” to be about death forced me to consider that identical emotions can spring from different souls and sound unrecognizable to each other; which was in invaluable lesson about music and life that has served me well whether or not Ornette was thinking of his deceased friend when he composed this now classic piece. I have to admit, now that Mr. Coleman himself has passed on, “Peace” does sound a bit more melancholy than it once did. I just wonder who’s going to play at his funeral.
Ornette Coleman – Holiday for a Graveyard (recorded live at John Coltrane’s funeral, 1967)