The Changin' Times of Ike White
The artist and the myth.
The artist and the myth.
Ike White was born in Chicago and he was the son of two musicians, thus being exposed to the musical world since a young age. As the low income started to become a problem in the family, aggravated after his father’s death, the young Ike needed to find a job that could sustain him and his family. Given his love for music, the teenager started to act as a robbery gateway driver, in order to be able to still keep on playing music at night on different clubs.
One day, on a shop robbery that did not go as expected, Ike White shot and killed a shop keeper. After being found guilty in court at the age of 19, he was condemned to a life sentence in prison.
Meanwhile, in the prison corridors, Ike White’s musical talent and charisma became more and more noticeable, and a myth started to spread, as he rushed his job of cleaning the prison execution chamber and electric chair, so that he can still find time to quietly seat it on it (while turned off) and to play the guitar.
As the word kept on spreading, the producer Jerry Goldstein heard about it and decided to seize the opportunity. After contacting the artist and gathering all the required instruments and recording materials, history was made as Changin’ Times (1976) became the first album in music history to be recorded inside a prison.
The legend would grow even more as the album and artist reached a broader public. Indeed, even Stevie Wonder financed a new lawyer in order to bring Ike White out of prison, which would happen in 1978 but with unexpected consequences.
Instead of spending his newly obtained freedom with his wife (Goldstein’s secretary, with whom Ike fell in love with during the album recordings) and daughter, or even embracing a musical career, Ike White ran away. After re-appearing far from home with pseudonyms like David Maestro, David Ontiveros, and many more, the artist became even more errant and womanizer, leading to more frequent “rebirths”, until his death in 2014.
Although it’s never easy to separate the artist from the myth, one can notice the disturbed mind of the artist after being condemned to a life sentence of imprisonment. As if destiny was not in favor of Ike’s release, even though his body was free, his soul continued locked up, disparately creating different alter-egos as if, ironically, Ike White’s life sentence still had to be served, and freedom would only be possible to achieve after reincarnating in a new persona.
by YKW // 18 November 2022
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