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  • Emerging Ally

Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck was one of the greatest jazz musicians of his time. He helped popularize jazz giving it a broader appeal and is considered a founder of “cool” jazz. He was also an incredible ally.


Dave Brubeck was white and incredibly popular. Brubeck used that popularity in notable ways as an ally.


After being drafted in World War 2 Brubeck’s musical talent was quickly discovered in the Army and he was ordered to form a band. He used his position to create the “Wolfpack” the first and at the time only integrated band in the military. Remember the military was segregated at the time.


After his military service ended Brubeck formed the Dave Brubeck quartet. Brubeck’s popularity continued to grow and he became a sought after act in the 50’s and 60’s.


He even graced the cover of Time magazine. When Louis Armstrong knocked on his hotel door to show him the honor Brubeck famously quipped “it should have been you”.


Brubeck would continue to use his position to be an ally.


The quartet was one of the few integrated groups. This at a time when the US was segregated.


Brubeck famously walked off the stage at a TV appearance when he realized the cameras were not filming the African members of the band.


Brubeck also consistently cancelled dates when he realized they would be performing in front of segregated audiences.


His most famous act of ally ship came in 1960.


In 1960 the Dave Brubeck Quartet was booked on a tour of a series of 25 colleges. College tours were common in those days … remember folks there was no internet in 1960 LOL!! …. and they were also quite lucrative. However a problem quickly arose. While 3 members of the quartet were white, the bass player Eugene Wright was black. That did not sit well for many of the colleges on the tour. See these colleges were all in the deep South. During segregation.


So the colleges requested that Brubeck replace his bassist with a more acceptable white player.


Brubeck refused.


In response to the request Brubeck cancelled the tour. Foregoing $40,000.


Brubeck was an ally in both words and actions.


To be an ally means to not just talk the talk but to walk the walk. While you might not be in a position to cancel your world tour over the issue, you are in a position to make sure people get the face time they need at the office, to recommend someone for a project, to ensure their idea gets heard to their credit.


As always I hope this helps. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.


All the best,

Dave Terné





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