Thelonious Monk

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Sphere of Thelonious Monk was a well-known jazz pianist, composer, and performer from the United States. He was well-known for pioneering intricate jazz tunes and for producing his own symphonies. He has written over 70 songs and is the second most recorded jazz composer of all time. Monk was born and raised in New York, where he spent nearly his entire life. Since he was a child, he has demonstrated his innate talent for music, particularly playing the piano, and has frequently won local competitions. He began his commercial career singing in jazz clubs, performing in jazz concerts, playing with tiny ensembles, and making irregular Blue Note recordings. However, as soon as his potential was recognized, he was signed by Riverside Records, which led to a contract with Columbia Records. Monk experienced the true essence of commercial success with Columbia Records, where he remained until the mid-1970s. Monk’s jazz career came to an end after that, as the dark clouds of mental illness clouded his ability to develop and play new music. Nonetheless, he is acknowledged as jazz’s leading musician, and he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Pulitzer Prize Special Citation posthumously.

Childhood and Adolescence

Thelonious Monk was born in North Carolina on October 10, 1917, parents Thelonious and Barbara Monk. Monk’s family relocated to Manhattan, New York City, when he was four years old, and he remained there for nearly 50 years.

Monk began playing the piano at the age of six, learning by watching his sister play the instrument. His great musical propensity led him to the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied theoretical music.

He was so good at it that by the age of 13, he had won so many weekly amateur competitions at the Apollo Theater that the management forbade him from ever competing again.

Monk briefly attended Stuyvesant High School before dropping out to follow his passion, music. He traveled with an evangelist named ‘Texas Warhorse’ and played the church organ in pursuit of it.

In his late teens, Monk began playing jazz with small groups. In 1941, he joined the house band at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, where he later assisted in the establishment of the Bebop jazz school.

A Career of Thelonious Monk

Monk’s debut pieces were recorded with the Coleman Hawkins Quartet in 1944. He was an important jazz musician that aided Monk in realizing his dreams. In the years that followed, he recorded for Blue Note as a leader.

Monk conducted several intermittent recording sessions for Blue Note between 1947 and 1952, but he promptly secured a two-year contract with Prestige Records. With prestige Records, he recorded a number of notable but little-known recordings.

Monk made his first trip to Europe in 1954, performing and recording in Paris. He met Baroness Pannonica “Nica” de Koenigswarter, who was also a patroness of various jazz musicians in New York. They grew to be extremely close friends.

Monk recorded ‘Thelonious Monk Plays the Music of Duke Ellington’ with Riverside in 1955 in order to attain commercial success, as he was regarded as a musical genius by critics but not by the general public.

In 1956, Monk released ‘Brilliant Corners,’ and for the first time, he composed his own music for Riverside Records. The album was his first commercial triumph, despite the fact that some of the pieces were so complicated that they required many editing sessions.

Monk’s cabaret card was reinstated, and he was once again authorized to perform in New York clubs, after it had been withdrawn after he was caught with narcotics by the cops. He performed at the Five Spot Café in 1957.

‘Monk’s Music’ was released in 1957, and practically all of the songs on the CD were written by him. For the album, he enlisted the help of another jazz septet, John Coltrane.

Rather of assembling a band, Monk began a second engagement at the Five Spot in 1958, with a quartet that included Griffin on tenor, Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums.

Monk joined with Columbia Records after much thought in 1962, when his relationship with Riverside was strained due to arguments over royalty payments. ‘Monk’s Dream,’ his first album with the label, was released the following year.

Monk’s standing as a jazz musician grew stronger than ever, and ‘Monk’s Dream’ became a best-seller in 1963, thanks to Columbia Records’ size and ability to accommodate an artist’s creative needs.

From 1962 until 1970, Monk collaborated with Columbia Records, releasing albums such as ‘Criss Cross (1963),’ ‘Underground (1967),’ and ‘Monk’s Blues (1968),’ among others. Despite the fact that these were the happiest years of his career, his creative output was restricted and his compositions were monotonous.

Monk had vanished from the creative landscape by the mid-1970s, with the exception of the worldwide tour ‘The Giants of Jazz’ and studio records as a leader for the English Black Lion Label, which he attributed to his mental illness.

Major Projects of Thelonious Monk

After signing with Columbia Records, Monk found commercial success. ‘Monk’s Dream (1963)’ was a critical and commercial success for him. As a result, he became one of the few jazz musicians to grace the cover of Time magazine.

Achievements & Awards

Monk was one of the legends of American jazz music, receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993 after his death, and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation in 2006.

Personal History and Legacy

Monk married Nellie Smith in 1947, and the pair had a son, T. S. Monk, a jazz drummer, two years later. Barbara Monk, a daughter, was born in 1953.
His mental health began to deteriorate in the 1960s, and by the mid-1970s, he had become a recluse due to his mental illness. He was treated on antipsychotics and lithium, but his mental instability did not improve.

Monk was invited to live in Weehawken, New Jersey, for the last six years of his life, when he died of a stroke on February 17, 1982, at the home of his old friend and patron, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. He was laid to rest in New York.

Estimated Net Worth

Thelonious is one of the wealthiest pianists and one of the most well-known. Thelonious Monk’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


In 1988, a documentary film titled ‘Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser’ was released that detailed his final years and mental instability. In the film, his son explains how Monk went days without speaking to anyone, then became enthralled for a few days before returning to his hermit status.

Monk suffered from manic depression, bipolar disorder, and maybe schizophrenia, according to a 1997 biography titled ‘Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk.’ His psychiatrists were unable to detect it.

Monk was caught with narcotics on two separate occasions and was prosecuted. It was for this reason that his cabaret card was canceled for many years, and he was no longer permitted to perform music in New York nightclubs where alcohol was served. He was also previously taken to prison and beaten with a baton.