Paul Desmond in 1962 (public domain photo)
He composed the biggest jazz hit of all time, his mother suffered from mental illness forcing him to live with relatives, and he died young. Saxophonist Paul Desmond was a legend in jazz circles, the author of "Take Five", a jazz hit he performed with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Desmond and Brubeck met in the military in 1944, became friends and worked with each other until Desmond's death. (Brubeck called Desmond "The Stork" because he would often "stand on one leg and lean on the piano"). Paul Desmond was married for 2 years between 1947 and 1949, but preferred one-night stands with no interest in long-term relationships - so he never married again. While he was a genius with music, Desmond made poor decisions regarding his health. He was a heavy drinker (a lover of scotch) and smoker, and believed to use LSD and cocaine - all of which drained his energy when touring. Desmond was known for his quiet jazz tunes and once remarked "I wanted to sound like a dry martini." When diagnosed with lung cancer, he cracked a joke, saying that at least his liver was okay (smoking got him, but drinking did not). Desmond's instrumental "Take Five" (recorded in 1959) became the biggest selling jazz single in history in 1961, and remains popular today. Paul Desmond died in 1977 at age 52. His incredible music can be heard here on Easy Jazz FM Radio.