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Gypsy In The Morning: Django Reinhardt Alarm Clock

January 24, 2012

Continuing with our Birthday Clock series: a belated January 23rd HB to gypsy jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt (1910-1953). His large, heavy-lidded eyes reminded
me of the two bells on top of vintage alarm clocks.January 23rd birthday caricature and clock for Django Reinhardt, famous gypsy jazz guitarist who invented new technique to compensate for two fingers being burned in a fire

He was born into a gypsy family in Belgium, hence his natural association with “gypsy music.” He discovered jazz around the age of 20. With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he founded the Hot Club of France Quintet in 1934. It was a jazz band with an unusual configuration: stringed instruments only. The line-up varied over time, but Reinhardt was the central focus and kept the band active until 1948.

Artists of any stripe– or any striver, really– could find no better role model than Django Reinhardt. Why? He was badly burned at age 18. The third and fourth fingers of his left hand were left partially paralyzed. Out of necessity, he invented an entirely new jazz guitar technique: he played all his solos with just two fingers, using his injured fingers only for chording. He not only faced his handicap, he used it to achieve new heights of artistry.

Here’s a larger detail image of the Django Alarm Clock. Scroll down to listen to one of his most famous compositions.

detail of January 23rd birthday caricature and clock for Django Reinhardt, famous gypsy jazz guitarist who invented new technique to compensate for two fingers being burned in a fire

You can find archival film footage of Django on YouTube, but it’s rather grainy and the sound quality is poor. Instead, I’m embedding a slideshow set to a pristine 1953 recording of Nuages (“Clouds”), perhaps his most famous composition. If you’ve never heard any Django Reinhardt, you’re in for a treat. I think you’ll enjoy the images, too– including some additional caricatures.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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What do you think? Ever heard of Django Reinhardt? Do you think he makes a good alarm clock? Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 10:42 PM

    Great illustration. Really liked the music too. My father was a musician, and one of his favorite artists was Chet Atkins. Django’s sound reminds me of Atkins, who was an amazing guitar picker.



    • January 25, 2012 9:51 AM

      Thanks, Jimmy, very glad you enjoyed post. Yes, Chet Atkins was a phenomenal player. Could he really have been self-taught?? The mind boggles. Guys like he and Django certainly open our eyes to the realm of human possibility. Many thanks for stopping by!


  2. January 25, 2012 2:39 AM

    Django is awesome. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to that?


    • January 25, 2012 9:55 AM

      I find all alarm clocks intrusive, but for Django, I might be willing to make an exception. Especially if it had a Snooze button… : )

      Many thanks for, er, clocking in!


  3. robpixaday permalink
    January 25, 2012 1:27 PM

    OMGosh…Django Reinhardt! thank you for telling us about him!! AMAZING! Luscious music. I knew about Stephane Grappelli but Reinhardt is a wonderful surprise. Such an inspirational a story! What talent!
    And your clock is perfect. LOL re the eyelids…I can imagine them “jangling!”
    The smoke that turns into his name is super. And I love how you worked his birth date into the staff!!



    • January 25, 2012 4:47 PM

      Yes, I’ve heard of people jiggling their eyebrows, but jangling their eyelids– hm, I think we may have an exciting new concept there!! : )

      T.O.O. K.I.N.D.


      T.H.A.N.K. Y.O.

      ::runs out of capital letters, heaves sigh, goes and stands in corner::


  4. January 25, 2012 4:42 PM

    Happy to hear that my upload is welcome.


    • January 25, 2012 5:35 PM

      Your upload of Django Reinhardt playing “Nuages” is most welcome, sir. Thank you very much for making the recording and video clip available on YouTube, and for allowing me to embed same in my post. I’m sure I speak for all visitors when I say it is a delight.


  5. January 25, 2012 9:03 PM

    I’ve never heard about him. Perhaps it’s because I am not really into the jazz. So I am very thankful for your info about him and his music, Mark! What a tragic situation he had! But he didn’t give up and that makes him such an inspiration! 🙂

    He definitely does make a good alarm clock! You did it very well and I really love it! Well done, Mark! I think you are right when you said it before on your previous blog in reply my comment that it looks better when you do it by hand-drawn. 🙂

    Great job! 🙂


    • January 26, 2012 10:12 AM

      Yes indeed, we all need inspiration– so thank you very much, Inge, for that inspiring comment!

      I am indebted to you for your previous comment about hand-drawn illos vs. photo manipulations. I think the latter have a place, but must agree that quick sketches based on intuition and first impressions have a special energy. I intend to experiment with photos in future, just to improve my Photoshop skills, but I needed that reminder that energy and truth seem to spring from a deeper place.

      So thank you for your insight and your cheery and kind support!! : )


  6. January 25, 2012 10:11 PM

    That’s a very clean production considering the age of the recording. Thanks for posting this. I was a classical music theory major as an undergrad and my teacher Ted loved this guy. Your illustration shows your deep respect for the guy. Very cool, two thumbs up.


    • January 26, 2012 10:21 AM

      A classical music theory major?? For a moment, I thought you were gonna take the alarm clock apart, analyze the parts, and reassemble it– whew! : )

      Your kind comment was music to my ears– thank you, Amelie!


  7. January 26, 2012 9:04 AM

    The music is beautiful. I could imagine sitting in a posh restaurant with it playing in the background. Thank you for introducing us to such a wonderful musician.

    I think it’s amazing how his handicap did not let his dream vanish. He really strived to make a great success. Truly a wonderful inspiration.

    I love your illustration. Depicting Reinhardt’s main features works well with the clock. And working the smoke into letters is a very clever way of showing his name and the ‘J’ almost looks like a music note. It would be great to see these as actual working products : )


    • January 26, 2012 4:24 PM

      Yes, Django was an inspiration and a genius. Clearly, he and I have a lot in common… : P

      It’s one thing to read about his battling back from such a debilitating injury, quite another to imagine the time, effort, and force of will it must have required. Inspiring indeed.

      Working products, eh? That’s an idea! Maybe I’ll build a factory and start selling Django Alarm Clocks on eBay– I need a quicker way to go bankrupt!! : )

      Many thanks for your kind and cheery support!


  8. January 27, 2012 12:03 AM

    Besides the fact that his music is amazing, I love the fact that you gave us a little bit of his background so we are able to connect to his world even more….His music is magical. Makes me want to learn a musical instrument….Thank you so much for sharing!! It was beautiful and inspiring! Just the type of music I would love to hear when I’m painting or drawing 🙂


    • January 27, 2012 4:45 PM

      Yes, a truly inspiring back story and beautiful music– who could ask for more? And I must agree: it’s perfect music to “do art” by. : )

      I’m delighted that you enjoyed the post. You should always keep an umbrella handy when listening to “Clouds,” however– you never know when Fox Raindrops might start falling on your head!! : )


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