A light-skinned African American with Native American and Asian bloodlines who was born in 1922, Mingus endured a difficult childhood in Los Angeles, forever stung by the rampant racism that halted his dreams of a career in the classical music field. Undaunted, Mingus went on to work with several jazz giants, including Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, and Duke Ellington, before creating his own record company (Debut) and composing over 300 iconoclastic compositions, including "Eclipse," "Haitian Fight Song," "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," "Cumbia and Jazz Fusion," and many other jazz standards. Santoro writes that the music "is overwhelming in its torrent of musical styles and psychological switchbacks and emotional punch, its tumble of raucous gospel swing, luminous melodies, European classical threads, bebop tributes, Mexican and Colombian and Indian music and sounds from anywhere and everywhere."
In addition to his keen insights into the music (including a thorough discography), Santoro deftly analyzes Mingus's mercurial personality. From the highs (his celebrated recordings Blues & Roots and Mingus Ah Um) to the lows (his horrible Epitaph concert, his eviction from his New York apartment, his numerous assaults on sidemen, and his slow death from Lou Gehrig's disease in 1979), Santoro fairly and faithfully lays bare the mind, body, soul, and art of an American original who influenced everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Joni Mitchell. "Mingus' music was autobiography in sound," Santoro writes. "Everyone in his life had a role. His portraits, his musical tributes, his insistence on forcing his sidemen to find themselves in what he imagined, his clamor for recognition, his emphasis on his originality ... these were more than stylistic trademarks. They were the essence of who he was." Myself When I Am Real captures this essence brilliantly. --Eugene Holley Jr. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Too many times this word gets used in this book.
In short, this is a poorly conceived and written book, and I'm frankly shocked that Oxford would implement such low standards for any publication.
His attempts to make sense of Mingus's life and work are fitful and mostly unsupported, and therefore not completely convincing.
Charles Mingus was such a colorful, tempestuous personality that any biography will at the very least be readable. Read morePublished on January 2, 2013 by Steve
I am not a book reviewer by any means but when this book came out I got it from the library and read it up. Read morePublished on May 26, 2010 by Endre Tarczy
Mingus, for all his many hideous transgressions depicted herein, deserves far better than to have this amateurish draft pass for a definitive biography. Read morePublished on April 25, 2010 by David Hewitt
I think it VERY difficult to critique not only the rich and complex mind, musics,and moods of Charles Mingus, and much has ALREADY been said pros and cons about Mr Santoro's... Read morePublished on December 2, 2002 by Peppino
Contrary to the other reviewers, I thought that this was an excellent book. The author places Mingus in the context of the pop culture of the 1940's through the first half of the... Read morePublished on January 9, 2002
This biography is a very rough read. Santoro presents a barrage of blunt, declarative sentences that present irrelevant facts along with the interesting details, indiscriminately. Read morePublished on December 4, 2001 by M.R.
This is a very bad book.
If you are interested in the monthly payments Charles Mingus made on his car loan, this may be the book for you. Read more
This book chronologically tells the story of the legendary bassist's life but this is no narrative. Santoro employs testimony from Mingus' bandmembers, ex-wives, kids and various... Read morePublished on September 18, 2001 by Ahmed Chronwell