Robin D.G. Kelley – Thelonious Monk: The Life And Times Of An American Original

Never has there been another artist like Monk and, in its 624 pages, this book captures all the history, stories, players, family, events… everything you could ever want to know (and more), with intelligence, clarity, empathy, and a completeness bordering on obsessive.

Hands-down one of the very best music biographies I have read. Ever.

***

Perhaps that blurb on Amazon tells you more:

The first full biography of legendary jazz musician Thelonious Monk, written by a brilliant historian, with full access to the family’s archives and with dozens of interviews. Now updated with an afterword for Monk’s 2017 centennial.

Thelonious Monk is the critically acclaimed, gripping saga of an artist’s struggle to “make it” without compromising his musical vision. It is a story that, like its subject, reflects the tidal ebbs and flows of American history in the twentieth century. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest com­posers. Elegantly written and rich with humor and pathos, Thelonious Monk is the definitive work on modern jazz’s most original composer.

21 thoughts on “Robin D.G. Kelley – Thelonious Monk: The Life And Times Of An American Original

  1. cincinnatibabyhead says:

    Books. Again knowing a little of my style. I’ve had this on my book rack (along with some other treasures) for a couple years. You know how I pull them down like vintage wine. I’m a Monk freak. Maybe 2019 is a good year to crack it. I have a different cover.

    “What are you waiting for CB you goofball?”

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    1. keepsmealive says:

      I knew you were a Monk freak, was hoping you’d pop in on this one. Don’t hesitate, man, this could very well be THE book on the man. It just contains so much, I can’t even begin to tell you, so you just gotta read it.

      As for goofball, nah, man, I know how it goes. I have a serious pile of books here waiting for me to get to them. And that’s just the music-related ones! Then there’s the fiction… and the other non-fiction…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. cincinnatibabyhead says:

        I’ve drifted away from most rock bios but the Jazz ones really interest me. I have read so many and still have ones like this Monk read that I’m saving. I think I’ll take your advice and crack it next.
        Seen a few docs on Monk. Always interesting. Feel like I know the guy.
        Just read a Raymond Chandler ( Playback). 160 pages after the Dickens marathon.

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        1. keepsmealive says:

          Haha Chandler after Dickens. Shifting without the clutch!

          If you were saving that Monk book for some reason, don’t start it just ‘cos I said so. But when you get to it, you’ll know what I mean!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. cincinnatibabyhead says:

            “Shifting without the clutch”. Power shift. I like that.
            I like to change up my reading (music also) so I need to read this now. I can feel it. He was such an interesting guy. Talk about misunderstood. Mental illness is never easy. I absolutely love his playing and his music. I have a box set of his ‘Complete Blue Note Recordings’. It is one of my favorite things.

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                  1. cincinnatibabyhead says:

                    So many other albums I can pick. But the box is pretty special. Old CB will come up with something. I like your suggestions. The line up thing is a good one. When I first started listening to him Charlie Rouse was such a big part of my experience. He was perfect for Monk’s music. i’m leaning that way. Plus CB just doesn’t have the technical musical knowledge to really dissect his stuff. All I know is that it moves me! “Whole other world”. Perfect. I might use that and give you a nod.

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                    1. keepsmealive says:

                      Write from the gut. Plenty of folks with technical knowledge have already covered this turf (Or, at least, tried to). Having it move you is way more important, and a way better read for us!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. cincinnatibabyhead says:

                      It’s the only way I can do it Books. This whole CB thing is all about music/film that I dig and that “moves me”. I put my grade 5 Jethro Bodean education into the writing. Thanks.

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                    3. keepsmealive says:

                      Oh for sure, me too, although I think you’re under-selling your education and your abilities a wee bit, there… Yeah I’ve always said I just gibber away on here from the gut, leave the insightful technical and sellable commentary to other people. I also say that I bring the KMA Quantity, and James (my KMA Brother) brings the KMA Quality. Truer words.

                      Liked by 1 person

    1. keepsmealive says:

      Well I haven’t heard them all, but everything I have heard is awesome. Gotta catch ’em all!

      And if you want the full story, this is the book, holy moly it’s brilliantly done.

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