Thursday, 13 December 2012

Dave Brubeck

John Barrett writes wonderful pieces about Robert Jackson, the prosecutor at Nuremberg, and about the Nuremberg trial more generally. He circulates them by e-mail, and invites readers to share them, and that is what I am doing:

David Warren Brubeck was born in Concord, California, on December 6, 1920.  His father became a California cattle rancher.  His mother was a pianist and music teacher.  Not surprisingly, David’s older brothers and he became horsemen and musicians.  By his late teens, David was playing piano professionally.

After graduating from the College of the Pacific in 1942, Brubeck enlisted in the U.S. Army.  For two years, Private Brubeck played in an Army band in California.  In 1944, he was trained to be a rifleman.  Following D-Day, he was sent to northern France for combat service.

Luck then intervened.  After hearing Brubeck playing piano with a Red Cross traveling show, his commanding officer ordered that he not be sent into combat.  Instead, Brubeck and a few other soldiers, most of them decorated, formed a swing band that was trucked into combat areas to entertain troops.  Called “The Wolf Pack,” it was the first racially-integrated band in the U.S. Army.

After Germany’s surrender in May 1945, Brubeck and his band mates were stationed in Nuremberg as part of the occupation army.  They soon discovered the city’s Opera House and made it their rehearsal space.

On July 1, 1945, The Wolf Pack played in a United Service Organizations (“USO”) show that reopened Nuremberg’s Opera House.   Later that summer and through the fall, Brubeck and his fellow soldier-band mates served, roamed, rehearsed and performed, including in USO shows featuring sixteen members of the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, in Allied-occupied Germany.

The Wolf Pack members were well aware of the IMT proceedings that began in November 1945 in Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice.  Brubeck did not attend the trial but he interacted with U.S., U.S.S.R., U.K. and French personnel who were parts of it, including at meals in a large mess hall that they shared.

In January 1946, Brubeck returned to the United States and was honorably discharged from the Army.

He then became, well, Dave Brubeck.  He lived a long, productive life of musical genius and international acclaim.  Although his time ended physically on December 5, 2012, Dave Brubeck lives on in his compositions, his recordings and, for those (I’m one) who got to see him play, in very special memories.   (For leading newspaper obituaries, click here and here.)

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Across the years after 1945, Dave Brubeck never forgot World War II or Nuremberg.  In winter 2004, for example, he recorded a musical autobiography, the leading songs of his war years.  The album, Private Brubeck Remembers, contains twenty-four piano solos and, in CD editions with a bonus disk, a lengthy interview of Brubeck by Walter Cronkite.  In the interview, they share memories of 1945 Nuremberg, where Cronkite also lived as he reported on the IMT trial for United Press.

Around the time that he recorded Private Brubeck Remembers, Dave Brubeck discussed Nuremberg with a Nuremberg prosecutor.  In a St. Louis, Missouri, restaurant following a performance, Brubeck met and had a conversation with Whitney R. Harris, former U.S. assistant prosecutor before the IMT.  Brubeck and Harris were hosted that night by their mutual friend Georgia Frontiere—she made it a point to connect the men, two giants with Nuremberg in common.

In 2005, the City of Nuremberg, noting Dave Brubeck’s dedication throughout his musical career to toleration, peace and human rights and his personal history in Nuremberg, invited him to participate in the City’s commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the start of the IMT trial.  Brubeck accepted—he and his band mates added Nuremberg on the front end of a concert tour that also took them to Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Poland.

On November 16, 2005, the Dave Brubeck Quartet played in Nuremberg’s Schauspielhaus (playhouse).  This modern venue is part of the Staatstheater (National Theater).  This complex includes the historic Opera House—for a guide book view, click here.  It is the same Opera House that The Wolf Pack helped to reopen to music, and that Justice Jackson then wisely declined to make a courtroom, in July 1945.

During Brubeck’s November 2005 visit to Nuremberg, the Lord Mayor thanked him “for liberating our City.”  In fact, with his music, he did.  And he liberated so much more.
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A few more links—

  • For video excerpts from a 2009 Dave Brubeck interview about his World War II service and his time in Nuremberg, click here.  (Hat tip:  Greg Peterson.);
  • For Dave Brubeck explaining, in the same interview, what inspired him to compose his signature tune “Take Five,” click here; and
  • For a 1966 Dave Brubeck Quartet performance, in Germany, of “Take Five,” click here.
Thanks as always for your interest, and please share this with others.



Professor John Q. Barrett
St. John’s University School of Law

Elizabeth S. Lenna Fellow

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