Today, in 1910, a guitar legend was born in Liberchies, Pont-à-Celles, Belgium, to a family of Manouche gypsies. Though born with the first name Jean, he was given the nickname “Django” which means “I Awake” in the Romani language. Django Reinhardt was drawn to music at an early age and initially played the violin. At the age of twelve, he was given a banjo-guitar as a gift and quickly learned the instrument, mimicking the Roma musicians that surrounded him in the encampments outside of Paris. By thirteen, he was making a living as a musician and by eighteen, he’d made his first recordings, playing banjo.
That same year, the caravan that he shared with his first wife, caught fire. Returning home late from a performance, Django knocked over a candle on his way to bed. His wife made imitation paper flowers as a way to supplement their meagre income and as a result, their caravan was loaded with flammable materials. Django received first and second degree burns all over his body. His right leg was paralysed and the third and fourth fingers on his left hand were badly burned. Challenging doctor’s claims that he would never walk again, he refused to have one of his legs amputated and was walking with the aid of a cane within a year. Read the rest of this entry »