Lover of the Fancy

Early C20th American culture and dissent

Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
Robin Kelley


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 com-posers. Elegantly written and rich with humor and pathos, Thelonious Monk is the definitive work on modern jazz’s most original composer.

Paperback, 624pp
New Press, 2010
ISBN 9781439190463



1. My Mother Didn’t Want Me to Grow Up in North Carolina
2. What Is Jazz? New York, Man!
3. I Always Did Want to Play Piano
4. We Played and She Healed
5. Why Can’t You Play Music Like the Ink Spots?
6. They Weren’t Giving Any Lectures
7. Since You Went Away I Missed You
8. I’m Trying to See If It’s a Hit
9. Dizzy and Bird Did Nothing for Me Musically
10. The George Washington of Bebop
11. It’s a Drag to Be in Jail
12. The ‘Un’ Years
13. France Libre!
14. Sometimes I Play Things I Never Heard Myself
15. The Greta Garbo of Jazz
16. As Long as I Can Make a Living
17. People Have Tried to Put Me Off as Being Crazy
18. My Time for Fame Will Come
19. The Police Just Mess with You …for Nothing
20. Make Sure Them Tempos Are Right
21. Hell, I Did That Twenty-Five Years Ago
22. Bebopens Oversteprast
23. Maybe I’m a Major Influence
24. Everything Begins Here and Everything Ends Here
25. That’s a Drag Picture They’re Paintin’ of Me
26. Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like Talking
27. Let Someone Else Create Something New!
28. What Do I Have to Do? Play Myself to Death?
29. I Am Very Seriously Ill
Appendix A. A Technical Note on Monk’s Music — Appendix B. Records and Tapes in Thelonious Monk’s Personal Collection — Notes — Original Compositions / Thelonious Monk — Selected Recordings / Thelonious Monk — Selected Documentaries and Videos of Thelonious Monk — Index.

ROBIN D G KELLEY teaches History at UCLA and is the author of several books, including Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination and Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression.