Beaten to death by a nightclub bouncer is, by anyone’s estimation, a bad way to go. On this day in 1987, Jaco Pastorius, a pioneer of the fretless electric bass who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, succumbed to that grim fate when he died in a coma at Broward General Medical Center. Jaco had suffered multiple facial fractures and damage to his right eye and left arm at the hands of Luc Havan, a bouncer at the Midnight Bottle Club who was trained in martial arts. Jaco allegedly had kicked in a glass door after being denied entry to the club, and Havan evidently responded by kicking the shit out of the renowned jazz musician. At the hospital, Jaco fell into a coma and was put on life support. He later suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and died on Sept. 21, 1987, at the age of 35. He is buried at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale.
Havan was charged with second degree murder but copped a manslaughter plea. He served four months of a 22-month prison sentence.
In so short a life, Jaco managed to have a huge impact on music. Here is an excerpt from fellow musician Pat Metheny’s liner notes to the 2000 reissue of Jaco’s self-titled debut album.
Jaco Pastorius may well have been the last jazz musician of the 20th century to have made a major impact on the musical world at large. Everywhere you go, sometimes it seems like a dozen times a day, in the most unlikely places you hear Jaco’s sound; from the latest tv commercial to bass players of all stripes copping his licks on recordings of all styles, from news broadcasts to famous rock and roll bands, from hip hop samples to personal tribute records, you hear the echoes of that unmistakable sound everywhere.
To commemorate this day in Miami history, below are a few videos of Jaco ripping it up on the electric bass. You can also read this interview with BBC radio journalist Clive Williamson, in which Jaco mentions his days as a University of Miami professor before joining Weather Report.