Jean Reinhardt (23 January 1910 – 16 May 1953), known by his Romani nickname Django (French: [dʒãŋɡo ʁɛjnaʁt] or [dʒɑ̃ɡo ʁenɑʁt]), was a Romani-French jazz guitarist and composer. He was one of the first major jazz talents to emerge in Europe and has been hailed as one of its most significant exponents.
Before he had a chance to start with the band, however, Reinhardt nearly died. On the night of 2 November 1928, Reinhardt was going to bed in the wagon that he and his wife shared in the caravan. He knocked over a candle, which ignited the extremely flammable celluloid that his wife used to make artificial flowers. The wagon was quickly engulfed in flames. The couple escaped, but Reinhardt suffered extensive burns over half his body. During his 18-month hospitalization, doctors recommended amputation of his badly damaged right leg. Reinhardt refused the surgery and was eventually able to walk with the aid of a cane.
More crucial to his music, the fourth finger (ring finger) and fifth finger (little) of Reinhardt’s left hand were badly burned. Doctors believed that he would never play guitar again. Reinhardt applied himself intensely to relearning his craft, however, making use of a new guitar bought for him by his brother, Joseph Reinhardt, who was also an accomplished guitarist. While he never regained the use of those two fingers, Reinhardt regained his musical mastery by focusing on his left index and middle fingers, using the two injured fingers only for chord work.
With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Reinhardt formed the Paris-based Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934. The group was among the first to play jazz that featured the guitar as a lead instrument. Reinhardt recorded in France with many visiting American musicians, including Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, and briefly toured the United States with Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1946. He died suddenly of a stroke in 1953 at the age of 43.