Black musicians have always melded the private and the historical into the aesthetics of human speech and music, the blues and jazz. The blues and jazz are the finest extensions of a bedrock of the testamental process. Blacks have been witnesses victims; they have paid their dues. "Dear John, Dear Coltrane" was written before John Coltrane died; its aim is the redemptive nature of black experience in terms of the private life of a black musician. Coltrane’s music should be seen as a progression from the personal to incantation and prophesy. It is a fusing of tenderness, pain, and power in their melding, and the [furbishing] is at once an internal and external journey or passage: to live with integrity means "to live"—"to create;" its anthem—"there is no substitute for pain"—The poem is a declaration of tenderness, and a reminder to the reader of a suffering beyond the personal and historical to the cultural, that there can be no reservations fixed to sensibility, that personality gives power through the synthesis of personal history and the overtones of America in and by contact. The poem begins with a catalog of sexual trophies, for whites, a lesson to blacks not to assert their manhood, and that black men are suspect because they are potent. The mingling of trophy and Christian vision, Coltrane’s minister-father, indicates an emphasis on physical facts—that there is no refinement beyond the body. The antiphonal, call-response/retort stanza simulates the black church, and gives the answer of renewal to any question raised—"cause I am." It is Coltrane himself who chants, in life, "a love supreme;" jazz and the blues, as open-ended forms, cannot be programmatic or abstract, but modal.
John Coltrane was a modal musician, who believed in the African Continuum, an un-broken continuity of the beliefs and concepts of African peoples the world over. This world-view has as its basic assumption the spiritual nature of the universe, as well as the attendant belief that man is essentially spirit, and as such is irreducible. The continuum is therefore those fundamental concepts that the black man has created in the universe that reflect his own image. Africa, the potent Ancestor, provides a strong ancestral base that reflects the African spirit wherever it is located; it is evident in the music of Africans, their use of sounds, words and images throughout the world. The African continuum is a modal concept which views the cosmos as a totally integrated environment where all spiritual forces interact. A modal perception of reality is a way of looking at the world which is consistent with the truth of the mode in terms of its own modality; a mode reveals its own truth on its own terms—one perceives it while integrated in the context of the mode. The truth of a mode cannot be arrived at by comparison with something outside its context; a mode is non-analogical and non-comparative. Coltrane’s music is the recognition and embodiment of life-force; his music is testament in modal forms of expression that unfold in their many modal aspects. His music testifies to life; one is witness to the spirit and power of life; and one is rejuvenated and renewed in a living experience, the music that provides images strong enough to give back that power that renews. . . .