Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus: Better Git It in Your Soul

From 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


Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture

Hotter Than That is a cultural history of the trumpet from its origins in ancient Egypt to its role in royal courts and on battlefields, and ultimately to its stunning appropriation by great jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Wynton Marsalis. The book also looks at how trumpets have been manufactured over the centuries and at the price that artists have paid for devoting their bodies and souls to this most demanding of instruments. In the course of tracing the trumpet’s evolution both as an instrument and as the primary vehicle for jazz in America, Krin Gabbard also meditates on its importance for black male sexuality and its continuing reappropriation by white culture. “The trumpet is the quintessentially all-American musical instrument — the one whose clarion tones proclaim our national character — and Krin Gabbard’s Hotter Than That, an engagingly written, admirably concise study of its place in American popular culture, goes a long way toward explaining why the trumpet and its best-known players have set down such deep roots in our collective imagination.” —Terry Teachout “Krin Gabbard’s thoroughly absorbing and original account of the trumpet in jazz and American life — written with a disarmingly anecdotal ease that should be the envy of any writer — argues that this ancient brass instrument didn’t achieve its true potential until it was taken up by African American musicians in the early years of the twentieth century. His argument is as entertaining as it is unassailable. I learned something from every page.” —Gary Giddins


Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture

From Booklist: “The cultural tendency of whites to simultaneously give a central role to black contributions to American culture and to marginalize black people is particularly evident in movies. Gabbard, a professor of comparative literature and collector of jazz music, explores ‘black magic’ in films, the use of those traits whites have long admired in black culture, such as passion and spontaneity, without acknowledging the connection to black culture or even featuring black characters.”


Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema

From Library Journal: “Jazz, one of the few uniquely American musical forms, is thoroughly analyzed in this absorbing and thought-provoking work. Gabbard (comparative literature, SUNY, Stony Brook) examines the treatment of jazz music and musicians in the American cinema, with emphasis on Hollywood’s appalling annexation of jazz-related trappings and resultant perpetuation of racial and sexual stereotypes.”


Screening Genders

From the Publisher, Rutgers University Press: Gender roles have been tested, challenged, and redefined everywhere during the past thirty years, but perhaps nowhere more dramatically than in film. Screening Genders is a lively and engaging introduction to the evolving representations of masculinity, femininity, and places once thought to be “in between.”


Psychiatry and the Cinema

American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.; 2 edition (March 1999): “The love-hate relationship between cinema and psychiatry and psychoanalysis continues unabated. For this second edition of Pyschiatry and the Cinema, published twelve years after the first, Glen and Krin Gabbard have added close to 150 films to their filmography. Lively and informative, the book sets out a feast in word and pictures for film buffs, mental health professionals and those of us who are both. If there was an academy award for a book on film, Psychiatry and the Cinema would be the winner, hands down.” — Arnold Richards, M.D., Editor, Journal of the American Psychoanalysis Association


Jazz Among the Discourses

Duke University Press (December 1995): “A groundbreaking anthology.” — Down Beat
“Historians of American music are likely to find Jazz Among the Discourses a particularly useful volume, since it emphasizes historiographic issues and collects several important previously published works.” — American Music
“Important for studying the interconnections between music, culture, and society.” — American Book Review


Representing Jazz

Duke University Press (December 1995): “The essays…seek to dismantle constricting definitions of jazz by exposing the music (as it has been played, imagined, and conceptualized) to interpretive methods in critical theory and cultural studies.” — Voice Literary Supplement