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Tragic Genius: Quotes from Thelonious Monk

Updated on October 4, 2008

Sometimes it's to your advantage for people to think you're crazy

I never though much about race.

Be-bop wasn't developed in any deliberate way.

All musicians are potential band leaders.

All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.

All musicians stimulate each other. The vibrations get scattered around.

Along with bass and piano, I was always at the spot, and could keep working on the music.

But I never get enough sleep. I haven't slept eight hours through in a long time.

But I was raised in New York, and it's home to me.

Everybody in all countries tries to play jazz.

Everyone is influenced by everybody but you bring it down home the way you feel it.

I always believed in being myself.

I always wanted to play the piano, and jazz appealed to me.

I can shoot pool, and I can play ping-pong. I'm pretty good at those games.

I cut out from home when I was a teenager and went on the road for about two years.

I did two years all over the States; playing in the churches was a lot of fun.

I don't know what other people are doing - I just know about me.

I guess, you know, if I didn't make it with the piano, I guess I would've been the biggest bum.

I had a little teaching; you have to have some kind of teaching.

I have to listen to New York; I live there. I wasn't born there, but I've been living there all my life.

I hit the piano with my elbow sometimes because of a certain sound I want to hear, certain chords.

I learned how to read music all by myself.

I learned the chords and fingering on the piano.

I left North Carolina when I was 4 years old.

I like casual clothes much better.

I look at TV, see everything there just laying in the bed.

I miss a lot of things that're written about me. I don't read papers. I don't read magazines.

I think all styles are built around piano developments.

I was about 11 or something like that when I started, and used to play with all the different side bands when I was a teenager.

I was brought up as a Protestant. I went to a lot of Baptist churches and a lot of Protestant churches, Sunday school and all that.

I wouldn't say I'm religious, but I haven't been around the churches in a good while so I don't know what they're putting down in there now.

I'd go stupid collecting and counting my money.

I'm not thinking that race thing now; it's not on my mind.

I've got a wife and two kids to take care of, and I have to make some money and see that they eat and sleep, and me, too - you dig?

I've never copied anyone, though; just play music.

If my own work had more importance than any others, it's because the piano is the key instrument in music.

If someone wants to play music you do not have to get a ruler or whips to make them practice.

My daughter she wants to be a star, a singer.

My mother didn't want me to grow up in North Carolina so I grew up in New York City where I kept on playing music.

My wife and kids spend a lot of money, but I really don't know how much I make.

Seems musicians come to New York and they reach a certain maturity, because there's an awful lot of good musicians in New York.

The family travels a lot with me when they can. My wife always does.

The piano lays the chord foundation and the rhythm foundation, too.

We have two kids, my wife and myself.

Well, I like music and I like plays and that is what opera is.

Yeah, I played in the Baptist church, and I'll tell you something else - I worked with the evangelists for some time, too.

You can try so many things with jazz.

You have all types of people in all types of professions, like the motion picture actors.

Thelonious Monk   American jazz Pianist and Composer,(1917-1982)
Thelonious Monk American jazz Pianist and Composer,(1917-1982)


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  • Jon Green profile image

    Jon Green 9 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

    Really nice hub - Monk is an acquired taste I think, but brilliant. I play Blue Monk and Round Midnight, two of his most classic tunes which work well on guitar too. Cheers, Jon Green

  • BkCreative profile image

    BkCreative 9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    Love the first quote - I have often thought about pretending I was crazy - but then it seemed like too much work. Then again as I get older and then much older, it seems possible that the craziness may just come naturally.

    Thanks for a bit of The Monk!