Robin D. G. Kelley: Thelonious Monk: An American Original (lecture)

Saturday, September 23


Logan Center for the Arts: Screening Room

ROBIN D. G. KELLEY is a professor and Gary B. Nash endowed chair in U.S. history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Robin’s research has explored the history of social movements in the U.S., the African Diaspora, and Africa; black intellectuals; music; visual culture; contemporary urban studies; historiography and historical theory; poverty studies and ethnography; colonialism/imperialism; organized labor; constructions of race; Surrealism, Marxism, nationalism, among other things. His essays have appeared in publications including the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, Black Music Research Journal, African Studies Review, and New York Times.

Robin will be delivering a lecture titled THELONIOUS MONK: AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL, based on his highly acclaimed 2009 book, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, the first full-length, complete biography of one of the most important composers and pianists in 20th century American music, and one of the most enigmatic figures of his era. While he is recognized as an originator of modern jazz, throughout much of his life his angular melodies, dissonant harmonies, and unorthodox technique were dismissed or overshadowed by tales of his reputed behavior. Critics and fans alike called him weird, eccentric, strange, taciturn, child-like—sometimes derisively, other times as evidence of his originality. Based on exclusive access to the Monk family papers and private recordings, personal interviews, as well as a decade of prodigious research, this book challenges the common stereotypes and delivers an intimate portrait of a startlingly different Thelonious Monk—witty, generous, family-oriented, politically engaged, critical, brutally honest, and a devoted father and husband. Above all, Thelonious Monk is the story of an artist’s struggle to “make it” without compromising his musical vision.