Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Paperback)

Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Paperback)

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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.

Robin D.G. Kelley's 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.


"Monk’s story, from roots in slavery, to the Great Migration north, to the cultural explosions of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, encapsulates a vivid tableau of twentieth-century American life and music. This biography is, at its best, a fitting tribute to one of America’s most original and lasting creative geniuses."
—The Sacramento Book Review

"...extraordinary and heroically detailed... I doubt there will be a biography anytime soon that is as textured, thorough and knowing as Kelley's. The 'genius of modern music' has gotten the passionate and compassionate advocate he deserves." 
August Kleinzahler, The New York Times Book Review

"An omnibus of myth busting."
—Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

  • Publisher : Free Press; Illustrated edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 624 pages
  • Item Weight : 1.4 pounds
  • Dimensions : 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches