Charles Mingus is one of the most important—and most mythologized—composers and performers in jazz history. Classically trained and of mixed race, he was an outspoken innovator as well as a bandleader, composer, producer, and record-label owner. His vivid autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, has done much to shape the image of Mingus as something of a wild man: idiosyncratic musical genius with a penchant for skirt-chasing and violent outbursts. But, as the autobiography reveals, he was also a hopeless romantic. After exploring the most important events in Mingus’s life, Krin Gabbard takes a careful look at Mingus as a writer as well as a composer and musician. He digs into how and why Mingus chose to do so much self-analysis, how he worked to craft his racial identity in a world that saw him simply as “black,” and how his mental and physical health problems shaped his career. Gabbard sets aside the myth-making and convincingly argues that Charles Mingus created a unique language of emotions—and not just in music. Capturing many essential moments in jazz history anew, Better Git It in Your Soul will fascinate anyone who cares about jazz, African American history, and the artist’s life.
What They’re Saying About ‘Better Git It in Your Soul’:
“Krin Gabbard is one of the finest stylists writing about jazz today, and Better Git It In Your Soul finds him at the top of his game. The writing is crisp, charming, and funny, a pleasure to read. The author’s love of this immensely rich body of music comes through on every page.”—Thomas Brothers, author of Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism
“One of the reasons that the great musician Charles Mingus is not better known is that the raw complexity of his life and the scale and sweep of his work seem to demand a whole team of artists and scholars to fathom and explain his importance in several different arts. Finally, Krin Gabbard—biographer, musician, film scholar, and literary critic—steps in with a book worthy of this twentieth-century master, and one that will surprise even those familiar with his legacy.” —John Szwed, author of Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth
“Gabbard conveys the complexity of Mingus’s life and his changing representation in an engaging and accessible book. A fascinating and thought-provoking read, this book is a must for anyone interested in jazz.” —Tony Whyton, author of Beyond “A Love Supreme” and Jazz Icons