Once he hit it big with his self-titled debut release in 1976, the jazz world took notice and he became the wonderboy of that genre. He joined Weather Report soon after and took that band over the top as well, playing with Miles Davis veterans Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter to sold out arenas worldwide. He also had stints with Herbie Hancock and Joni Mitchell among many others. The verve and youthful energy of Pastorius, who had a lust for life that manifested in his playing and in his life, made him not only a jazz superstar, but a jazz rockstar as well, and was a large part in getting the youth of the time interested in the jazz sounds, which were pretty much musical anathema to that generation. With amped up intense bass solos for frenzied crowds which were chock full of Hendrix riffs, classic R & B, and even a version of the traditional standard “America the Beautiful,” Jaco helped changed all that youth derision and nose thumbing at jazz fusion, at least during that zeitgeist of the late 1970s, when he seemed musically invincible.
But Jaco Pastorius was also a troubled man later in his life. He left Weather Report by 1982 and formed his own Big Band, which was another rousing success and started showing his talents and propensity for not only playing music in a most stellar fashion, but composing it, arranging it and producing it as well. But this time, he began sporting a mental illness which manifested itself in mood swings and deep depression and unkempt erratic behaviors, things that turned him sometimes into former shadows of his famed glory days, literally and figuratively. By the mid-1980s, tales of Jaco started to get into the urban legend variety, he was homeless, he was completely off kilter with himself and the people around him, the Jaco legend, which once trumpeted what a wonderful musician he was, now became mired in a virtual blackballing of him because of his unpredictable behavior. Pastorius met his tragic demise as a result of his illnesses and demons on September 21, 1987, when he succumbed to dire injuries sustained in a vicious attack on him by a bouncer in Florida, a senseless and downright awful way to end a life that enriched so many with his music.